lauren wasser

Lauren Wasser’s Fight Towards Healthier Period Care Is Only Just the Beginning

“...If men’s dicks were falling off, this wouldn’t be an issue.”

Olivia Kenney
Rachel Pickus
If you have a box of tampons somewhere within your home, raise your hand. Chances are you’re not alone: According to The University of Texas at Austin, tampons are the second-most common menstrual product used by women, falling just short behind pads. Ever since our mothers and sisters taught us about the wonders of these cotton wads, we’ve been putting them in on a monthly basis without second thought. But these are the exact culprits that entirely changed model Lauren Wasser’s life.

“I was just a young 24-year-old healthy girl,” Wasser told Coveteur. “I was on my period, super heavy. And I was using super-absorbent tampons, and I just felt like I got flu-like symptoms and that turned into me almost losing my life.”

That was the starting point that caused Wasser to lose both of her legs from a condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition commonly caused by our precious tampons. No, Wasser did not “leave it in too long”: She was living her normal life, as one should, when she got roundhoused by this tampon-induced illness that took two of her limbs and almost her life.

“Even looking back, I would have never even thought to think that my tampon was the thing that was making me sick,” she said. “I would have never said, ‘Oh, maybe it’s my tampon.’”

Now Wasser rocks gold-painted prosthetics, one of the many reasons why you may recognize her. She’s garnered a following of 100k dedicated people just on Instagram alone, each one tuned into her journey as she walks the runway and cracks a smile for W, Shiseido, and lest we forget her appearance at Rihanna’s inaugural New York Fashion Week show for Savage X Fenty.

lauren wasser
Though the model has shown a resilience unlike any other, she still wants the general public to know the dangers lurking within one of the most popular lifestyle products used daily by women across the globe: tampons.

“This has been an epidemic that has been killing and injuring women for over 30 years and before I was even born,” she said. “So when this did happen to me and I did get away with my life, I did my research, and I just realized that I’m just the lucky one that was able to be the messenger and try to make change happen for the generations to come so no one else has to go through this.”

So not only will you see Wasser championing for a more inclusive scenario within the world of fashion, but you’ll see her championing for change within the world of period-care products—and you should be following in her lead. Wasser has been partnering with congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to get the Robin Danielson Act passed. Named after a woman who died of toxic shock syndrome in late 1998, Wasser considers this act dire in order for women to know what’s going into their feminine hygiene products and what the long-term effects are going to have on our bodies.

The issue? It’s been rejected by congress 10 times and has a 3 percent chance of actually being enacted.

“I always say if men’s dicks were falling off, this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s something that can definitely be changed. And the fact is that these corporations are funded and protected by the United States, they’re pretty much in the government,” Wasser said. “It’s crazy that these products are still being sold even though they can kill you or you can lose limbs. You see tampon commercials, and it never says a warning. How do you not warn women about the potential of the product that they may use? It’s a medical device. They should be promoting the fact that this is a serious thing and can actually kill you and endanger you, but they just make it seem like, ‘Oh, you want to go running, you want to go on the beach, you want to go swimming, these products will help you do that.’ But is that really worth risking your life? No.”

Below, Coveteur dives deep within Wasser’s world of championing for change, the bright future of change within fashion’s inclusivity issue, and more.

lauren wasser
What inspired you to get into modeling?

“I’ve been in it [modeling] since I was about four months old. My mom and dad are both models. That kind of was something that just came naturally. But I think, for me personally, it just means so much more because I think I stand for so much more, and I’m just trying to change what we think is beautiful. What beauty is, I think we’ve only seen one perception for so many years, and me coming in the way that I look and with my golden legs, I think it’s bringing a new, fresh vibe and diversity and change, and it’s like a whole new reason and purpose, and it’s so much fun. I didn’t enjoy it, honestly, when I was growing up, but I love it now because of the meaning behind it all.”

The feminine-care industry, until very recently, has stayed pretty stagnant in regards to the options we have. Of course, there’s now menstrual cups and organic tampons, but one problem that comes up is many of these people can’t afford these—even a box of regular tampons is ridiculously expensive. How do you think we can work to change this?

“Just having a conversation—I think more women need to be aware that this is a huge problem. It’s a problem that affects all of us, and it affects the youngest of us and the generations to come and how we need to protect our daughters and cousins, sisters, and mothers, all of us.

“I think men need to be aware. It needs to be an open conversation about how dangerous these products are and how to protect yourself because these go inside of us and at a very delicate, sensitive time. And I think if we just keep talking about it, and hopefully getting more people to pay attention and see that this is something that could be changed, and hopefully we can pass this bill and get enough women aware of the dangers and the potential dangers that they may be putting their 13-year-old daughter at risk that they may not even be aware about.

“The tampon companies make it seem like it’s your fault, but in actuality it’s them because they’re making the ridiculously harmful products that they don’t want to admit to. They want to blame everyone else, so they’ve been getting away with it for almost 30 years. It’s 2020, there’s so many ways now that you can make products that are safe and environmentally friendly, but these huge corporations just think of the dollar, it’s all about money.”

lauren wasser
What advice do you have for women who want another option? Do you have any recommendations?

“Use organic tampons, make sure you read the ingredients, make sure they don’t have dioxin or any synthetic fibers that shouldn’t be there. I believe in Thinx. I love Thinx. I think the message they have as far as periods and underwear is great and they work. I think that’s another issue is that we don’t even have those options. It’s so expensive, and those are around $30 a pair. Some people don’t even have internet. So I think it’s just at this point about women getting angry that you don’t have those options, but even something we have to search for, to feel safe and to feel comfortable.

“I think it’s just an open conversation and hopefully continuous pressure. It may take my entire life to actually do something, but I believe that, I’m ready for the fight. So we’ve been fighting, it’s just…it’s not going to happen overnight.”

I want to talk a little bit about the modeling industry. It has a reputation for being shallow-inclusive or tokenistic. Do you think that the modeling industry has changed from this and is starting to get to a better point? And how do you see the future of fashion going in terms of inclusion and diversity?

“I definitely have to say, from a young age being in the industry and seeing my mom and all these beautiful women who were naturally gorgeous and not even real life, and then coming to now, I wouldn’t have been accepted 10 years ago. I would not have even been looked at. So I’m just grateful that times have changed and people are more open-minded. Obviously there are still people who are not, that’s a fight still happening. But at least their eyes are opening and they’re bringing people like myself on, and people of different shapes and sizes and all different ethnicities.

“I think it definitely is changing. It’s, again, not going to happen overnight, but at least it’s happening. And I definitely see that change, which is amazing for so many reasons. We’re tired of seeing the same basic person, and I think it’s interesting too, because we all need someone to look at and to aspire to be like. It lets us know that we can potentially be in that position. I think having people like myself, or plus-size girls or whatever it is, at least people are seeing a version of themselves in this industry that they hadn’t before. That’s so liberating and freeing, and it shows that everyone is beautiful and unique. It is a strength to have to be different and to accept who you are because there is only one version of yourself.”

lauren wasser
So many people are able to see you now and relate to you. So who inspires you?

“There’s a little girl that I was able to get in contact with, and she’s an amputee. She’s five, her name is Sloane [Avonlea]. She’s just amazing because children have no idea of being different, and the beauty of that is she doesn’t even realize she doesn’t have a leg. She climbs trees, she goes in the ocean, she doesn’t care if she gets her leg wet or if it gets scratched. She just lives her life, and she doesn’t think anything different. That inspires me because obviously, during my journey, I definitely had to come to grips with everything and learn in my own process. But to know that someone like her, who’s only five…it’s just so beautiful to see. It makes me want to live my life to the fullest and not hold back anything, honestly, it’s children that their resilience is pretty inspiring.”

You were in last year’s Savage X Fenty show. What was it like to work with Rihanna?

“That was definitely one of the biggest highlights in my career. Personally, I feel like I was fighting so hard to be in that position with those girls, Gigi and Bella [Hadid], to be in that company. And then to have Rihanna, I mean, to be a part of that show is definitely such a blessing and so much fun. It was just really cool that I felt like I was finally making headway in the sense of… I wasn’t any different than anyone else.”

But do you have any other moments in your career you’re specifically proud of?

“I think that’s with everything I do. The fact that I’m even where I’m in my career and I’m able to even be on this backstage with those girls, and to be seen as no different than anyone else. I think that’s the beauty of it because that’s my whole message. You are no different; whatever you may think is your weakest point is actually your strongest. That’s your strength, and being unique and different is what sets you apart from the rest. And that’s what makes you beautiful is because you have something that no one else has.”

lauren wasser
You’re also in the process of making a documentary. Could you tell us about that?

“It’s pretty fresh, but I have footage of everything that happened: my legs black, my mom kissing my legs goodbye… Things that I think are really important for the world to see. Everyone that sees me now, they don’t really see how far I’ve come, or they forget. I really want people to see how hard it was for me to get to where I am and how much pain that I had to endure, and how this shit should’ve never happened. It shouldn’t happen and it doesn’t need to keep happening. And hopefully it’ll sit with them because I can talk about things all day long, but if you visually see my feet black and me screaming for my mom, anyone in their right mind would put themselves in that position and never want to have to be in that position ever. It hopefully will make them angry and get people riled up to actually push for change because this is ridiculous, we’re in 2020.

“Women’s lives are in danger every day, all the time. I get young girls and women writing to me from all over the world. I’ve seen victims of TSS that have unfortunately lost their loved ones because of it. It’s really important for the world to see not just that resilience in myself, but also the resilience in themselves that they can overcome anything in life. They just put their mind to it. And we’re all adults, it’s a set of cards, it’s just how we play it. Hopefully I can inspire anyone wanting to give up to not [give up] and to keep pushing.

“Hopefully it’ll push people to want to hold companies accountable and to make them be more transparent about what’s actually going on in these products and the reality of what they can do to your body. Also, I want anyone facing anything to see my journey and to see how far I’ve come, from literally almost killing myself to the Savage X Fenty show on the runway with all those girls. It’s amazing, it’s such a blessing. Hopefully I can inspire anyone going through anything to just keep pushing forward and to know that whatever’s in front of them, that they think is the end, to just push through. You can be amazed at what’s on the other side.”

Asking a style question after talking about something so deep feels a little shallow, but you are known for your impeccable style. That is one of the reasons why you’ve grown such a fan base. So what are your favorite fashion brands of the moment?

“I love vintage tees. I’ve been rocking my Off-White Jordan Fours, they’re pretty much my everyday sneakers, and trust me, I have so many sneakers, so the fact that I’m obsessed with them is crazy. I just like to add thrift store stuff to high fashion with Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, I love Rick Owens. I just like to mix and match and play a little bit,. I wear something high-fashion, and then I’ll add Crocs. It’s just a little bit of everything.”

Honestly, Crocs are having a moment though:

“They are, they are having a moment. I just got my high-heel leg, so now I can go more into the femme zone and get back to wearing high heels and get ready to actually work the runway again.”

Lauren wears off white sneakers and a Thom Browne full look.

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