Lauren Wasser has spent her career shifting the perspective of who a model should be and look like. A former athlete turned model turned activist, Wasser has spent almost a decade fighting to not only redefine what beauty is, but has used her voice to fight against a condition that changed her life forever.
Today, Wasser has been able to use her platform to shine a light on a serious matter that still affects 0.8 to 3.4 per 100,000 in the United States: Toxic Shock Syndrome. In 2012 after thinking she was just coming down with the flu, Wasser was diagnosed with TSS, ultimately leading to both of her legs being amputated over the course of a few years. Since then, Wasser has been vehemently fighting for safer products from menstrual care companies, advocating for women to pay attention to the materials that our menstrual products are made from, as well as raising awareness for TSS and the grave nature of the condition.
Wasser recently shared with nécessité details surrounding her modeling career, maintaining positivity during this global shift, as well as opening up about her TSS diagnosis and the journey of her life that followed.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in San Diego, California. My mom had me at 21 while she was trying to balance a career and motherhood. I ended up growing up wherever she was – Paris, London, New York and then we settled in LA.
What is one thing that your parents instilled in you as a child that has stuck with you?
Something that I’ve always carried with me is my close relationship with God, which I owe to my grandparents. They also always had an open heart, were loving and accepting people for who they are, and wanting to always help. I admired their love and open arms. It showed me what real, unconditional love is, so that’s one thing I’m very grateful for.
Did you choose to model or did modeling choose you?
I think it’s always chosen me. It’s been a part of my life and journey since I was 3 months old. But now to be in the position I’m in, a new me with these golden legs and the platform to showcase a side of beauty that’s never been highlighted is powerful. I’ve created my lane and have had to make people see that the real beauty starts within and that whatever you may hate or dislike about yourself is just the thing that makes you unique and one of a kind. I hope by my opening up and showcasing my journey and acceptance can allow others to love themselves just the way they are.
What is your favorite part about modeling?
Being able to have the ability to change people’s idea of what a “model” should look like – breaking barriers and stigmas and boxes that are old and of the past. I’m an athlete so I have that natural competitive nature, I take everything as a challenge to prove that I belong and can do anything.
How important to you is what you eat for achieving optimal health? Take us through a non -workday of what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and what snacks?
I’ve been training for the NYC marathon for the past two years. And I plan to crush it this year so I’ve had to learn to use whatever I’m eating to have maximum fuel. I usually have some fruit and coffee or a bagel in the morning – a protein shake for lunch or after my run, and lots and lots of water! It’s so important to be hydrated. I’ll have some pizza or a good chicken burrito for dinner.
What does a typical day look and feel like for you in this present global shift and how do you stay mentally healthy through it a day today?
My beautiful puppies have been the best love through this pandemic. Running has given my mind release and time to be one with myself and my thoughts. I’ve been taking the downtime to plan and reset my mind, and plan for my future.
What advice do you have for Gen Z girls that are obsessed with drooling over other girls on social media?
I would say to not always believe what you see. With social media and all these apps, a lot of young ones are growing up with an unrealistic side of beauty that doesn’t even really exist. It’s so focused on the physical when that’s fine, but it all begins with the inside and loving yourself first that counts. Everything is always about making it seem like girls nowadays aren’t enough in their skin – that they need to change themselves to be like that girl they see on IG or the cover of the latest magazine to be accepted or to be hot. It’s wild. That’s why I’m always promoting self-love and acceptance. Being reminded you are 1 of 1 and that is power. There isn’t another person exactly like you on this planet so stop trying to look like everyone else.
Are you confident? If yes, how do you maintain your confidence?
I am very confident but that’s come with a lot of self-love and reflection, and honestly having to build myself literally from the ground up and from the inside out. Loving yourself and knowing your value. Doing the work. You get to a place where you feel untouchable because you know who you are. And all that work inside and out brings the confidence to go after your dreams and fight for what you want in life because you know you deserve it and it’s obtainable. You just gotta go after it.
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a real and serious issue. What advice can you share with us to educate us that you learned from your personal experience with tampons?
I think first and foremost pay attention to the products you are using. Educate yourself on what exactly is going inside of you and at such a sensitive time. I would use 100 percent cotton tampons if you use them at all. TSS can happen to anyone. I was using the product as I should, and it almost killed me. TSS is real and it happens more than you know.
In your opinion, how can one prevent TSS?
By using safer products. Period-proof underwear is something I highly recommend especially for young girls just starting to get their periods. Using products that don’t use chlorine or bleach or rayon or any harmful chemicals that then you put inside of your body, at a very absorbent time of the month. Just being more aware of TSS and able to have honest conversations about periods so we can protect each other and demand all-around safer products and transparency from these massive corporations.
How did you mentally handle and embrace the amputation of both of your legs? How often do you have to replace them? Do you choose the colors or create any design features?
I don’t think you can ever prepare for something so permanent and real. I didn’t have an option with my right leg – it was my life or my leg. It was the choices after that that I made that have led me here. Facing severe depression and suicide, and having to want to be a voice for women and for people to be deeper, and see another side of beauty and someone who has made it out of hell. Standing tall to hopefully inspire the person next to me not to quit and to keep believing in their dreams. Or to be able to overcome a situation or trauma they have experienced. To not feel defined by your past but to use it to build the best possible you in every way.
I always loved gold. ASAP Rocky has good teeth and I love him so I thought why not rock gold legs. I have a few sets of legs now and I’ve changed with volume, sometimes with weight or for example with me gaining muscle from running. They’ve made me impossible to stop.
We all face adversities and challenges in our lives. How did you mentally and physically choose to keep moving forward after your TSS experience? Did you ever want to give up, if yes, what motivated you not to give up?
I was facing suicide, I was depressed, and I was so angry – I hated life and everything around me. It was very dark because everything I knew was stripped from me overnight, and I was thrown into a world that I didn’t even know anymore, into a society that I felt wouldn’t accept me. I was living with my mom and my 14-year-old brother at the time. He was coming home from school and I knew that if I killed myself he would be the first to find me. I knew that I couldn’t do that to him and leave him with that to live with for the rest of his life. I couldn’t do that to my mom – I knew I had to show that I could make it out of this nightmare and it wasn’t going to kill me. That love helped strengthen me to fight and battle through the dark times. You never know what will be on the other side if you push yourself through.
What is one thing in 2020 you learned about yourself that you are grateful for?
The time to be present. To be in one place to be able to look at the past and prepare for the future but to live and plan in the present. I’m always working and traveling and when you’re constantly in motion you can’t digest what’s around you and what’s been happening. To appreciate everything big or small and that what matters in life – the love and support of your friends and family and how much those people mean to you.
Self-care, Self-love, what does it mean to you?
It means you respect yourself enough and love yourself enough to know what you deserve and need to be your best. From physically taking care of your body and mentally being able to download. Eating healthy and making sure you are surrounding yourself with good people and energy. Laughing as much as possible, not taking life too seriously.
Photo Credit: Parsons