Life throws you a curveball. It becomes the end of the world, and you see your life collapse right in front of you. However, once you discover a newfound purpose in life, you can get back up again, and you’re stronger. Lauren Wasser, who lost her legs from complications related to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and now wears gold prosthetic legs after having both amputated, is one such person. In the face of all the odds, she has found a valid purpose: fighting for women’s health and safety, and for all the sisters, daughters, mothers who have been lost, and their families forever changed, due to TSS, a rare, life-threatening bacterial infection, sometimes caused by the use of tampons.
Wasser grew up surrounded by beauty; glamour, fame, and the art of modeling weren’t foreign to her. “Growing up with model parents and seeing my mother always looking perfect, I only grew up seeing that one side of beauty,” recalls Wasser, who appeared in the pages of Italian Vogue, alongside her mother, as a baby, and has been modeling in some form ever since. Perfection was all she had known when it came to the industry, and after battling for her life with TSS in 2012, perfection was the last thing she thought of when she saw herself. “I would never have thought in a million years I would be loved, or accepted back into an industry that had never given people that look like me space to exist in fashion,” she says.
At a moment when everything seemed lost, Wasser regained her “strength and fire for life after learning that TSS had been killing and injuring women before I was even born.” This revelation fueled her new purpose to make the best of her situation – and make a difference to create “society highlighting those who stand out for not just being unique but using whatever separates them as their strength.” In particular, she is a strong advocate for holding corporations accountable “because women must have safe feminine-hygiene products,” and she has worked with Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York on the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act, named after a woman who died of TSS in 1998, that enforces corporate companies to disclose exactly what is going into these products and what their long-term health effects are.
To raise more awareness of the dangers of TSS, Wasser has started working on a documentary that’s “going to be shocking but also powerful having the audience see the physical and emotional effects that I endured because of TSS. No one will ever want to lose someone that they love to this. To lose a life over a tampon is unbelievable, but that’s how toxic and dangerous they are.”
Last but not least, Wasser has created her own lane in the fashion industry. She’s grateful for “the designers, photographers, and models that believe in me, my message, and have rocked with me on this journey. Their love is sincerely and deeply felt.” She has used her gold legs as a fashion statement and as trophies symbolizing her journey. Especially now, she hopes that people understand the importance of loving yourself and transforming your flaws into the greatest strengths, your very own trophies. “The way we look is just the vessel, what matters is your heart and the good things that are left when you’re no longer on this planet,” she adds.
Writer: Hazel Mekkattukulam
Photographer: Ron Contarsy (for Highmark Studios)
Hair: Brandi Voorhees
Makeup: Ruth Fernandez
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Walker Hotel Greenwich Village (@walkerhotels - www.walkerhotels.com/walker-hotel-greenwich-village) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)