How Lauren Wasser Defied the Odds and Became a Model After Losing Both Legs Because of a Tampon
Lauren Wasser is a model and activist who’s faced some serious challenges, but still managed to make a big impact in the fashion world. Back in 2012, she went through a tough time when she lost both her legs because of toxic shock syndrome from using a tampon. But instead of letting it define her, she used the experience to speak up for women’s health and safety, pushing for better regulations for menstrual products.
Lauren Wasser grew up in a family of models.
Lauren Wasser’s roots in the fashion world run deep, as she was born into it on March 2, 1988, in California. With both her parents working as professional models, it’s no shocker that she made her debut in Vogue at just 4 months old, sharing the spotlight with her mom. Given her early exposure, it was almost natural for the young girl to be pulled into the allure of a career in modeling.
She lived a full and active life until she became ill.
Lauren Wasser showcased her skills on the basketball court and earned herself a prestigious athletic scholarship. Despite her talent and the opportunities in sports, she made the choice to shift gears and dive into a modeling career. Interestingly, even after making that decision, she kept up an active lifestyle for quite a few years.
Her world was turned upside down at the young age of 24.
This syndrome stems from an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which churns out a lethal toxin into the bloodstream. The public first took notice of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) in the late 1970s in the United States, with several young women falling seriously ill. By the 1980s, the syndrome was hitting people at a rate of about 6 in 100,000, raising significant concerns.
The nightmare began with symptoms resembling the flu, leading to renal failure and, shockingly, two heart attacks — all attributed to the rare and life-threatening syndrome. Facing a slim chance of survival, doctors had no choice but to place Wasser in a medically-induced coma as a last-ditch effort to save her life.
Waking up a week and a half later, Lauren Wasser revealed in a poignant interview, “I woke up a week and a half later and had no idea what had even happened. They pumped me full of 80 pounds of fluid.” Tragically, her situation worsened as gangrene spread, causing her right leg and left foot to be engulfed in searing pain. “From there, my feet were on fire, and gangrene set into my right leg and my left foot. There was no option. I had to amputate my right leg.” The heartbreak continued in 2018 when she faced another devastating setback, leading to the amputation of her left leg.
Lauren Wasser advocates for TSS awareness and safer menstrual products.
Highlighting the perils of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), Lauren Wasser underscored the hazardous elements found in tampons, stating, “[They] are made using chlorine bleach, dioxin, and synthetic fibers, which create the perfect storm in our bodies.”
“I have been working with a mother who lost her teenage daughter to TSS when she was 18 — Madeline Mosby. Through the darkness and trauma of that, we have joined forces in wanting to change the world.”
She returned to modeling and became the “girl with the golden legs.”
“My whole job has been to show that you are enough, and you’re beautiful in the skin you’re in, and highlighting your scars and the things that you hate most.” With a determined mindset, Lauren Wasser made the choice to re-enter the modeling scene and began seeking out gigs. While many of her colleagues rallied behind her decision to return to modeling, some skeptics questioned whether she could pull off a successful comeback.
Embracing her new reality, Wasser opted for gold-toned prosthetics instead of ones that matched her skin color. In an interview, she explained her choice, saying, “Making it my own and giving it life, so to speak, changed my perception,” she said, explaining her choice in an interview. Thus, she became the “girl with the golden legs,” allowing her to stride down the runway for renowned designers once again.
Currently, she’s still taking the fashion world by storm and fighting for more inclusivity.
After the amputation of her left leg due to chronic pain, Lauren Wasser has found herself leading a more active lifestyle. Notably, she has returned to playing basketball, a passion of hers, and is gearing up for a marathon. On the modeling front, Wasser’s career is thriving; she strutted down the runway for Gabriela Hearst and Louis Vuitton in 2022, and she’s been featured in campaigns for Lacoste, Furla, and Shiseido.
In addition to her flourishing modeling career, Wasser stays committed to championing inclusivity and acceptance for individuals with disabilities and diverse conditions within the fashion industry. Her activism and impactful contributions to the fashion world have garnered her a well-deserved spot on the special-edition Women of the Year 2022 covers of Harper’s Bazaar, standing alongside other inspiring women. Summing up her journey, Wasser reflects, “I’ve worked so hard to be myself and never take ’no’ for an answer.”
Lauren Wasser’s remarkable journey from tragedy to triumph marks the dawn of a new era in modeling. Keep an eye out for the inspiring stories of nine women who fearlessly took to the runway, shattering stereotypes that have persisted for decades.