Ra'Shad Solomon hasn't been dealt the fairest hand in life, but the 23-year-old Jacksonville, Florida native made the best with what he had.
Born with a debilitating form of Cerebral Palsy that confined him to a wheelchair and limited use of his hands and legs, Ra'Shad encountered his share of adversities, but never allowed them to break his spirit.
With a single mother, and a younger sibling that also suffers from a form of Celebral Palsy in mind, Ra'Shad sought out to change the path of his future that would start with one mission: meeting Russell Simmons.
Long interested in modeling and fashion, Ra'Shad's six-year journey to meet Russell was fueled by one thing: His desire to make the world a better place for his little brother.
Through the Make A Wish Foundation, Ra'Shad's wish finally came true a day after his mother's birthday and he was granted a chance to fly to New York City and meet Russell Simmons (and the entire GlobalGrind staff.)
Here is an account of his journey to meeting Russell Simmons in his own words:
When I was in high school I was the first person to win Best Dressed in a wheel chair and the certificate was presented by all the kids with disabilities in the whole school.
After I won that, I was like, this is something I want to do, I want to get into the fashion world. I have Cerebral Palsy real bad in my hands. I can't design. I can't sketch. I was looking for something I could do. I take pictures very well. With pictures comes modeling. And as I researched, I didn't know of anyone that was trying to do modeling in a wheel chair. When I look on “America’s Next Top Model” there aren't any women in wheel chairs. There's nobody that you can say, 'They did this and they were in a wheel chair.' I want to be the type of person that people with disabilities can look up to.
That is why I wanted to meet Russell.
Who wouldn't want to meet Russell Simmons?! He is a fashion mogul, he's a hip-hop mogul, he's an entrepreneur, he's a clothing designer and the list goes on. From Phat Farm to Baby Phat to Argyle Culture and Run Athletics, everything that he has involves clothes, it involves marketing and then it's all in New York City!
I came in and I gave him a hug. It wasn't too bad, he looked like Russell! It was exciting, 6 years is a long time.
When I was a teenager I started off going on the website and contacting his publicist. That is a really crazy process! You have to go back and forth and back and forth, but one thing I’ve noticed is, you have to be persistent. You have to keep sending emails every single day. That’s what I was doing for about 3 years and then I went on the Rush Communications website and got nothing. Then that’s when I did research and found sponsorship and got granted the Make A Wish Foundation and started working with a woman named Kelly. That’s what all came to here.
It's been a struggle, but patience is a virtue and my mom told me it doesn't happen overnight, but I'm the type of person that doesn't like waiting. One night, I was in the kitchen with my mother while she was cooking and I told her, 'I think I'm just going to call it quits. I don't have any management, I don't have anyone representing me, I've contacted everyone to try and get to Russell and I’m not going to get to Russell anytime soon. It's not going to happen, I want to give up.'
She stopped stirring the spaghetti and looked at me and said, 'Why would you give up, you never cared what a person thinks about you. You never cared. It's patience, it's not going to happen overnight, you came this far - you have to do it.' Not even a week later, I got a phone call that I was coming to here to meet Russell Simmons.
When I met Russell, I told him I wanted to be a model and he said, 'Why the hell do you want to do that?' And then when I told him why, he immediately had a different impression.
I have a little brother. My mom had two kids with Cerebral Palsy. My little brother is 16 and I'm trying to do it for the sake of me and him, because I do not want it to be as hard as it was for me. That’s why I’m trying to make it just a little bit better. And he wants to be a wrestler. He said, you want to be a model, I want to be a wrestler.
I just need somebody to be there for me and believe I can do it. And that’s why I wanted to meet Russell Simmons. That's what I want him to try to help me with. I just want him to put me on the right steps and the right direction, because it's just me and my mom trying to get this together. I want to be the type of person that people with disabilities can look up to.