After Toxic Shock Syndrome claimed her legs, Lauren Wasser set out to reshape the fashion industry

After Toxic Shock Syndrome claimed her legs, Lauren Wasser set out to reshape the fashion industry

As the child of two models, Pamela Cook and Robert Wasserburger, growing up in California in the early 1990s, my world until then was defined by rare beauty. I was surrounded by the faces of the time: Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell. Looking back, I realize how unusual my childhood was, but back then that was all I knew. It wasn’t long before I started following in my parents’ footsteps: I booked my first modeling job at just two months old, working alongside my mother in Italian. vogue. But as I got older, I also discovered a passion for athletics – basketball was my true love. Everything I wanted, I was continually told, was within reach.

And so when I woke up from a medically induced coma in this Santa Monica hospital room one day in early October 2012, in excruciating pain, it wasn’t just that I was unrecognizable: I had been stripped of all my identity, of the beauty and the body which, I thought then, had made me me. I had been found unresponsive at home, having suffered from a fever of almost 42°C, my kidneys failing. I had had two heart attacks and only had a one percent chance of survival. When I returned a week and a half later after being put on life support I was pumped with fluid, I weighed 200 pounds, my hair was so matted my head had been shaved and my legs were black with gangrene . It wasn’t until I heard a nurse say that a young woman should be amputated that I realized she was talking about me.

I left the hospital three months later in a wheelchair and came home in shock trying to come to terms with my new reality. For eight months I rolled around in my bathroom and sat on a stool in the shower crying out to God, wondering why and how this happened. I didn’t think I would be loved again, I didn’t think I would be wanted – I certainly didn’t think the fashion world would ever accept me.

For a time, in my darkest moments, I was suicidal. I had to force myself to dig deep to see that beauty isn’t just found in the physical, it’s how we affect others and the world. Eventually, I realized that prostheses were my path to a more independent life, but seeing the stiff, medical-looking limbs that were available, I struggled to see how I would make them myself. To move forward, I knew I had to create something that matched my identity. I’ve always loved gold, so I decided to make my legs a jewel, to consciously make something that people look at and fascinate. The result is, I believe, something close to art.


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