Editor’s note: Hydred Makabali, born and raised in England and now living in San Diego, California, was in a car accident just a few days after her 18th Birthday, resulting in a complete T9-T12 injury.
My accident happened five days after my 18th birthday. I was feeling young and daring, as most teenagers would, and wanting to be independent and autonomous. We were on the freeway and my boyfriend at the time was driving. My younger sister was with us as well. My boyfriend had an old car, and the steering wheel locked up. We ended up hitting the center divider, went into the ditch and hit a telephone pole.
I remember I was wearing my favorite skirt, and I looked down and saw my legs flailed out, and I felt electricity going up and down my spine. I remember sitting there thinking I was awake, and I was okay, and I’d be leaving soon, but I ended up being airlifted to the nearest hospital.
I’m a complete T9-T12 paraplegic. I had funny ideas of what rehab was supposed to look like. In my mind, I was picturing learning to walk again, but in reality, I was just learning how to roll over and push myself back up onto my elbows. It was a daunting and very anti-climactic feeling. I was in denial.
I have some shame in saying this, but realistically, it took me five to six years to get out of that denial period. My fears at that age were not being able to stand up in front of a mirror to see how my clothes fit, not having a boyfriend, and thinking I wouldn’t be able to have a regular job. On social media, I was seeing my friends graduating college, getting married, and having families.
I fell into depression and what I think was a mild form of agoraphobia.
I couldn’t leave the house. I was afraid that if I would go to the mailbox, a car would hit me or an airplane would fall out of the sky and hit me. Those were very real thoughts for me then. A classmate and now very close friend of mine, Robin, helped me get out of that little by little. We would sit and have tea on the porch or in the back where it was safe. Soon after that, we started going to the park or a café, and I was able to be around people again. That eventually led to going to nightclubs and having fun again! I also learned to drive around that time, and that really opened my eyes to a new world. I was liberated! That’s when I decided I wanted to get on with my life. I also decided to go to college then, because I wanted to get integrated and socialize with people. I chose psychology initially, and then later went into a double major in fine arts. I knew if I didn’t get into what I really loved, I would eventually regret it.
After finishing my degrees, I rolled right into the arts. It just fell into place. My sister was doing hair for weddings at the time, and she asked me to do makeup for her clients. My first job was doing makeup for Montel Williams’ best friend’s wedding! I also worked for a costume shop doing special effects makeup as their primary artist after doing an apprenticeship with them. I learned how to do prosthetics and latex applications, use rigid collodion to pucker up the skin and create scars- all kinds of fun stuff. It really folded in my artistry on a 3D canvas. I love it!
I also worked with ESPN doing makeup for pool players. I got into playing billiards for a while because it was very meditative for me. All I wanted to learn was how to hit this ball, to hit that ball, to go over on that end of the table. It was also appealing to me, because I didn’t have to play with anybody, and there is some artistry behind how the balls move. I just needed, what I call “productive distraction”. There was a time when I was practicing eight hours a day. I lived and breathed in the pool halls. I did as many tournaments as I could, both wheelchair and able-bodied. At my peak, I did a few pro tournaments as well. It was very nerve-racking, and it eventually took the wind out of my sails. I wouldn’t say I got burnt out, but I did lose interest. I had put aside art for a while and was ready to get back to it.
I’ve also been playing classical guitar for about 10 years now. It kind of took over the pool playing. It’s a lot more accessible- I don’t have to go to the pool hall to practice. I have a guitar at my house, and no other equipment is needed. Like billiards, it involves hand-eye coordination, but it’s also an expression of art. There’s something very magical about music and just getting lost in it.
For the last nine years, up until about a month ago, my primary job was working for Shiseido at Bloomingdales and then on the military base in San Diego. During that time, I also did freelance makeup jobs. I’ve been working with Meagan Marie, an international cosplayer, for quite a while. I do the Comic-Con San Diego convention with her and a group called Gen Girls. These ladies are not only gorgeous, but they’re also gamers and editors for gamer magazines- things like that. We’ve done some very elaborate & crazy pieces. We did a 3D, gender-bending version of Two-Face (a supervillain comic book character). I fashioned teeth from fake fingernails. It took us 6 hours to do it all, and the photos went viral on Pinterest!
Editor’s note: A cosplayer is someone who wears costumes to represent fictional characters, often from comic books or anime. “Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture” (cited from www.comic-con.org/about).
I’ve been selling my artwork for a while now and have done some shows for my oil paintings.
Lately, I’ve been really prolific with my drawing and sketching.
I carry a little book around where I journal and combine it with a sketch. I’ve been focusing on faces a lot lately. I wanted to learn how to truly render a face realistic. I like to take online classes to keep my chops up, too!
A lot of my work is figurative. I love to do portraiture, and I just love the human form. I'm hoping to combine it further with makeup artistry in more open platforms like Fashion Week runway or illustration style publications (old school cover art, like a modern day Norman Rockwell or Mucha style- some of my creative influences). I’m not sure how that would happen, but that's something I aspire towards.
Looking forward, I would love to work with MAC Cosmetics. They have a career track that would lead me more towards what I’m doing with my artistry now- combining my painting style with the more creative makeup stuff (not just beauty and weddings). It would include more of the Comic-Con style stuff, like airbrushing and body painting. I couldn’t get that from Shiseido. Nothing is set in stone, though, and I’m just kind of going with the flow for now!
I’ve been working with Colours Wheelchair for nearly 20 years. When I met the owner, I was in a Frankenstein-like wheelchair. I was gambling with pool and doing modeling at the time, which is how I was sponsored with them. I considered myself a carefree spirit, and what they do is allow people to show their personality with their chair. They have tried and true models, but they will also completely customize your frame for you. It’s pretty relevant having options and an artistic license on who you want to be. I’ve had a 24-carat gold chair and all kinds of other crazy, blingy, stuff! Colours is family to me. They have followed me through all of my different hobbies: modeling, pool, and my artwork as well. I’ve traveled with them as an ambassador to many different expositions in the US and internationally.
I love traveling, and in the past couple of years, I’ve been to Ibiza, Barcelona, Prague and Milan. Prague was very difficult, because it’s so old and laden with cobblestone. I did fall out of my chair once there, but someone instantly came to help me out.
I travel back to my home country, England, nearly once a year. I am the eldest of 6 children, and in 2012, we got the chance to connect with my father’s other family consisting of 5 more children. They were so much like my sisters and me. It was like looking into a mirror, but at another generation. I was molested and raped in my adolescence, and many of us were victims. To finally admit what happened was a difficult thing. I grew up with a lot of guilt and shame.
I’ll be honest; I’m not in the practice of using social media. I sell my artwork mostly through word of mouth. I’m not putting much focus on marketing, but I am open to being contacted in order to sell my work. I can do custom artwork on demand. I’ve done some commissioned oil paintings, but I can do just about any kind of medium, except graphic design on a computer! I’m fascinated by graphic design; it baffles me. But I’m definitely the old school, hands-on style.
Editor’s note: Hydred can be contacted about her artwork at email@example.com.
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do," by Jalaluddin Rumi is a quote I live by, as well as, “"say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."
I’ve had a very charmed life.
I came into this interview wanting to keep an open and free mind. I’ve always been a little bit more of an introvert. I think I’ve always been painfully shy but learned to be in the limelight when I need to be. I prefer to be behind the camera. I enjoy the process and the anonymity, but I'm also making efforts to integrate. I'm definitely more of a one-on-one person, as opposed to having an audience or a social media platform. As I’ve matured and gotten older, I’ve become more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been.
In the mix of things, of course, I could focus on the worst, but I don’t really have that much to complain about. I’m really grateful, and I’ve had many great opportunities.
Betsy Fraisse-Bailey takes pleasure in writing as a means of discovery, education, and new encounters. When she’s not interviewing people for Wheel:Life, you can find her trying out vegan restaurants or hunting for parkour spots or beach volleyball pick-up games wherever her travels take her.