Student Showcase: Cait Hellyer, @asliceofcait
This month is Disability Awareness Month. 20% of university students self-define as having a disability; this includes students with long-term illnesses, specific learning difficulties, mental health illness, autistic spectrum disorder, sensory impairments, physical impairments, and many more. This month, we wanted to showcase one of our amazing student influencers, Caitlin Hellyer @asliceofcait about her work with us, her fashion blogging and life as a university student with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism.
Hype: Hey Cait! It’s great to talk to you. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Cait: Hey Hype Readers, I am Cait, a 21-year-old Fashion Blogger, Influencer, Writer, and Model with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. This means I stand at 3’11 tall. I’m actually the first member of my family to have the condition. Although I lack in height, I make up for it in determination and living my life to the fullest. Whether it’s work, traveling the world, or social events, I am always up for it. I am also a student in my 2nd year of studying Marketing at the University of The West of England.
Hype: How did you get involved with Hype?
Cait: I remember this quite vividly! I was contacted by a campaign producer on the Hype Team for the Lovehoney Campaign via email as they had found my blog. Usually chats with producers can be daunting but Hype put me at ease right away. From detailed and professional responses to the freedom of being to express myself with full autonomy…I really felt part of the team. I really did become comfortable that quickly. Hype is not your usual agency and I was instantly pulled in by their enthusiastic, open-minded, and fun work ethic.
Hype: Last year, you worked as a Lovehoney influencer with us. How did you feel, talking about such a typically considered taboo subject on your social media?
Cait: Fairly chilled! I am genuinely more nervous to walk into a uni seminar with 14 people in the room than I ever was talking about typically taboo subjects to 10,000 people online. Moreover, throwing myself into the deep end of such a subject on social media accelerated my confidence. If you can talk about sex and sexual desires, you can talk about anything. To me, female pleasure and sex is natural and we’re only human for having such desires, so why should it not be spoken about?
Hype: Why do you think it’s important for women to talk about female pleasure on their platforms?
Cait: It’s important as it needs to be standardised. Conversations surrounding sex are so common in male culture. To discuss their sexual experiences and pleasure without consequence is a privilege for guys. However, as soon as a female discusses it…it is suddenly deemed unladylike. We’re also branded by abhorrent terminology. We, as women, should be able to express our wants and needs without judgment. Secondly, it helps others. I admittedly had no idea what I was doing regarding pleasure until I found sex-positive female content creators. To be open about sex online makes it a safe space too as we know a content creator intends to be educational over anything else.
Hype: On your Instagram, @asliceofcait, you share your daily fashion styles and tips for petite and small-statured people. What is your number one fashion tip?
Cait: Wear block colours! Especially if you want to create looks that make you appear taller or elongate your legs. It is actually a tip from my mama but it has helped me in recent years. Don’t get me wrong I love my height and embracing it. However, I also desire to appear proportionate and to get the most out of my features such as my torso or legs. Block colours additionally look more effortless!
Hype: You’ve recently modelled for Chamiah Dewey Fashion, an award-winning, sustainable, adaptive womenswear brand for short stature people and it looked amazing! How important is it for there to be diversity in fashion, both in creating fashion and modelling it?
Cait: Thank you! Chamiah’s hard work and diligence towards the brand are on another level. You will never hear the end of my praises! She is extremely dedicated to understanding our wants and needs as well as providing a safe space to express this. The forefront of being inclusive in fashion is putting someone’s wants and needs as the primary goal of a garment. Not following a textbook or building a garment based on assumptions.
Growing up, I had no other option but to wear textbook-based clothing and used a pair of scissors to cut off whatever did not fit. It’s a lot of wasted fabric and making do, if something does not fit you lose confidence too. Confidence in what you wear should not be a privilege and that is why being diverse is important. Seeing diversity and seeing yourself understood means confidence.
With her brand, Chamiah has thrown away the textbook completely, which is the most progressive action a designer can take.
Every item created is built upon thorough research, hours upon hours of conversations with the communities involved, passion, and a rich drive to provide. Goodness knows how many trips Chamiah takes to the post office as every draft item made is sent to us to try on too. She does not assume either. Therefore, leading the way in forming a diverse company. Diversity within fashion is a matter of taking more time to understand, dig further into the range of avenues diversity is, and educate. Regarding modelling, diversity is important as it’s visual and normalises diversity. I should not have to say normalise in any given sense, but the comments, stares, and harassment still happen. How will the public be educated on disability, ethnicity, sexuality, and lifestyles if they are not seen on wider platforms?
Hype: Do you think that it’s important for universities to have safe spaces for students with disabilities?
Cait: Definitely! At the end of the day university is a rigorous environment and having access to a safe space eases this. Having an accessible and safe space should also not be a privilege, it should be the case across all universities. Especially in terms of accessibility and if you are living independently. It removes being passed from department to department. Furthermore, it diminishes the feeling of being a ‘burden’ or the guilt of asking for assistance in whatever circumstance it may be. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a university that has a dedicated disability hub whom regularly contact me. As a result of their support I have thrived at uni in so many ways and it has been such a positive experience.
Hype: What are some things you think universities can do for the disabled students that they’re not doing?
Cait: To stop assuming before even asking about a disability. As amazing as my university were with communication regarding my disability, they assumed the action of me stating I had dwarfism meant I was a solely wheelchair user. With a majority of short statured people, a wheelchair is not required. Everything they had assigned to me was based upon that assumption too. Disability is so subjective. Therefore, I was given a disabled access room that was far too big and had actually rendered me exhausted. It was four times the size of a regular student room in the halls I lived in. After 5 weeks of living in it, I had to sent a request to swap as I did not need the space and needed to reserve my energy.
Hype: Lastly, Do you have any societies/networks/account you’d like to signpost?
Cait: Yes, of course! The @TabouMagazine is a great network for disabled students and provides all of the tips and tricks to get through university. I am also loving Hannah Witton @HannahWitton) and have done for years. Regarding style accounts @sammimaria is a goddess. I’m a big fan Ellie Robinson’s (@EllieRobinsonGB) style at the moment too, she is the queen of vintage style and positivity.