“I like tutus.”
Kiesha Greaves, founder of Girls Chronically Rock, was at Cambridge College receiving her master’s degree when diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy–a chronic illness that manifests in the weakness of the muscles.
This diagnosis didn’t prevent her from accomplishing her dreams. Instead, she used it to her advantage, incorporating her story into her clothing brand.
“I love Betsey Johnson because of her tutus… And I’ve always been obsessed with Kimora Lee Simmons, ever since she created Baby Phat. Hopefully I can collaborate with them one day. It’s on my bucket list,” Greaves says.
Growing up, Greaves had a love for fashion. Inspired by designers like Betsey Johnson and Kimora Lee Simmons, she hoped one day to turn her passion into a career. And, better yet, collaborate with her idols.
It was only natural when she decided to attend Framingham State University to earn a Bachelor’s in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Greaves worked hard to get her foot in the door, hustling at merchandising companies like Motherhood Maternity, Tommy John, Spanx, and Echo Design. Her love for fashion only grew.
“My family knows me as the one who always dresses up. They say, ‘oh, what is she gonna have on today.'”
“I would just be walking and my legs would kind of just give out on me,” Greaves tells Scout. Greaves was in graduate school when she noticed some symptoms. One day, while at the supermarket, she fell and was not able to get back up.
“I was pretty much just dead weight.”
Greaves thought little of it, blaming it on lack of exercise. Regardless, her mom brought her to Tufts Medical Hospital in Boston. Doctors were baffled when she was unable to lift her legs as they instructed.
“The right leg would not go up. It would only move maybe an inch or so, which was the first time I noticed that. And then they asked me to try the left leg, and it was the same thing,” she says.
After undergoing a muscle biopsy, they discovered she had Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy.
“I was kind of in shock. I had never heard of it in my life, and nobody in my family seemed to have it,” says Greaves.
It wasn’t until a friend encouraged her to write a blog that Greaves began to process her diagnosis. “I think at that time, [writing] really opened me up a bit to the fact that I had Muscular Dystrophy,” says Greaves.
Greaves then reached out to others with MD. She got involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and found friends who lived around Boston. Her biggest help in this mission was social media.
“Thank God for social media with the whole hashtagging,” she says. “#musculardystrophy, #chronicillness, #disabilityawareness. Hashtagging all of that, I opened up a whole new range of connecting with so many other people.” She even discovered Facebook support groups.
At the end of the day, she says, support from family and friends is amazing, but there is nothing like talking to somebody who understands. “I’m so grateful I have them to chat with,” she says.
After school, she put her degrees to use towards becoming an entrepreneur and business owner. “I thought, I am a true believer in things happening for a reason at times. So maybe this is a way for me to start a fashion business but also a way to share my story,” she says.
Now, her brand Girls Chronically Rock is selling merchandise and bringing awareness to Muscular Dystrophy.
“I was just lying in bed one night, and I thought, ‘girls chronically rock,'” she says. “I loved the way it flowed. It was empowering, powerful, confident.”
“I wanted [a fashion line] to have different things that sounded uplifting and empowering. We can still do what anybody else can do. We may have challenges, but we can still do it.”
So far, Greaves has received many positive responses. “I’m just so very humbled and grateful when I get opportunities. It brings more awareness for the disability community,” she says.
Greaves also hopes to one day release an adaptive clothing line. With adaptive clothing, she explains, the process of getting dressed would be much easier.
“I’m happy now that designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Target now have adaptive clothing collections for people with disabilities. It wasn’t like this in the beginning,” she says.
Greaves wants people with chronic illness to know there’s no right way to process a diagnosis.
“Some people totally embrace it, and they start making a Youtube page within minutes. And I admire that. But for me, I feel like I just accepted the fact that I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy,” she says.
“Just take it day by day.”
Check out the latest designs at GirlsChronicallyRock.com.