Student-turned-activist Jason Clymo is granted his wish to model for Stellar, in a shoot with a difference.
One day Jason Clymo hopes he can flip though a magazine, see a high-fashion ad campaign featuring a model in a wheelchair and know it’s no big deal. And with any luck, that model will be him. “If it was commonplace for someone in a wheelchair to be modelling for Burberry, or if there was someone with a missing leg walking down a runway for Calvin Klein – if that was just normal – that’s what would make me really happy,” the 22-year-old tells Stellar. In November 2014, Clymo was in his second year of medicine at Monash University. Out for an evening of drinking, he fell three storeys down a stairwell at his friend’s apartment building. He suffered a spinal cord injury, one that left him paralysed from the waist down. Clymo has no memory of the accident, though he assumes he went over the railing. “I had gone up and down those stairs many, many times – but it’s one of those typical stories where you can do something 100 times… and on the 101st, something goes wrong.” He would spend six months in rehab and move back home with his parents in the Victorian border town of Echuca. Clymo would also start to reevaluate where he was taking his life. Even before the accident, he had toyed with the idea of taking time away from medicine. Modelling had always been in the back of his mind. “I learnt pretty quickly that life’s way too short,” he says. “It sounds a bit corny, but it’s way too short to be
doing something you’re not 100 per cent passionate and excited about. Otherwise you wake up with that feeling – what am I doing this for? – instead of jumping out of bed.” He catches himself and laughs: “Well, I don’t jump out of bed! But getting up with excitement for your day.”
A family friend who is a make-up artist helped arrange a meeting for Clymo to feel out his new vocation; by the end of last year, he had signed with Wink models. Since then, he has featured in a Public Transport Victoria campaign and is an ambassador for Starting With Julius, an organisation which promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in advertising and media. Since roughly one in five Australians has some form of disability, Clymo argues it’s simply good business for his demographic to be represented.
“About 100 per cent of brands are neglecting 20 per cent of their market; it doesn’t sound smart to me,” he argues. “We’re not asking for a favour, we’re asking you to be smart in your marketing and smart in your branding.
Just be inclusive of all people – because it’s the right thing to do.”
After his accident, Clymo was given a wish by the Starlight Children’s Foundation – he told them he wanted to star in a magazine fashion shoot. The foundation reached out to Stellar, and his wish was granted. “For kids who are diagnosed with cancer or have an accident like Jason, control over what’s happening to them is taken away,” says the foundation’s CEO Louise Baxter. “A Starlight wish gives the control and decision-making back to that person.”
Even though he is bristling with excitement on the set of the Stellar shoot, Clymo confesses a fashion shoot was not his original choice. “My first wish was to meet Beyoncé,” he laughs. “And if Beyoncé reads this magazine, I still want to meet Beyoncé!
“A month ago [Starlight] touched base and said, ‘Do you still want to meet Beyoncé?’ And I thought, ‘Why don’t I try to get myself a bit more exposure in the modelling industry and get my message out there? Then, if I become famous, I’ll meet Beyoncé anyway!’”
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