Amputee Model Lauren Wasser Talks Body Positivity and New Lingerie Campaign
We like our Hanky Panky and Victoria's Secret as much as the next girl, but we're also always on the lookout for the next under-the-radar lingerie line that's going to wow us with unique designs, intricate details, and a heavy helping of the rawness and edge that mainstream brands often shy away from. The latest addition to that growing category, which currently includes brands like Lonely Lingerie and Nubian Skin, is a brand called Stance. While the company has been making high-performance socks for over five years, this is their first foray into intimates. Spoiler alert: It's good, especially for those days when you're in the mood for something a little more powerful-feeling than the same old lace thong. But what really drew us to the collection, which includes athleisure-style bralettes, underwear, and bodysuits, is brand ambassador Lauren Wasser.
Wasser's story, which she has detailed to publications likeVice and Vogue, is scary, eye-opening, and ultimately, empowering. The daughter of two models, Wasser appeared on the pages of Vogue Italia as an infant and, at 24, spent her time modeling, playing sports, and partying with friends. Until, in October 2012, when she contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome from a Kotex tampon. The bacterial infection, which, although rare, kills an estimated two to three people each year, turned into gangrene while she was in a medically-induced coma. This meant Wasser's right leg had to be amputated below the knee.
Initially, she assumed her life was over and that she'd never play basketball, model, or even feel comfortable in her own skin again. Five years later, she's both an in-demand model and an outspoken activist seeking to spread awareness about TSS and the hidden dangers associated with tampons.
“My goal in this is to shake the norm and get as many women to stand with me to say enough is enough. I want women, and even men, to realize there are dangers with tampons,” Wasser says. “We create life from our menstruating years. It’s quite precious and we need to protect ourselves. Stop using tampons and, perhaps once we’re united, we can create a better alternative.”
Wasser, who rocks a flashy gold prosthesis and has modeled for brands like Kenneth Cole, Nordstrom, and Chromat since losing her leg, is an obvious choice for a line that's all about strength and confidence. Stance refers to its brand ambassadors as “Punks and Poets,” and the description feels especially fitting for Wasser, who has helped demolish boundaries in the fashion industry as a model with a non-traditional body who dresses with an androgynous, rock n' roll flair.
“Lauren is an inspiration on many levels, but the way she has taken a tragic life moment and turned it into a source of empowerment truly embodies the confidence and originality that defines our brand,” Stance CMO Candy Harris said in a statement.
The term “body positivity” is thrown around a lot these days, to varying degrees of accuracy. Ostensibly positive messages are often mixed with imagery that's anything but, like in the case of the recently-criticized, ridiculous Zara ad. Plus-size women are pitted against thin women, and women who aren't sample size are told they're “brave” for showing their bodies. But even in an industry that feels eager to co-opt and cash in on women's empowerment, Wasser does feel like a truly body-positive role model, if only because she's so open about what it took for her to get there—and where the pitfalls still exist.
“I think the industry has opened up a lot, but I’m still witness to many young models starving themselves to match unrealistic measurements,” she says.
“[Body positivity] means that you, her, me can look in the mirror and say 'Damn…I’m perfect just like I am' and really believe it. It is to love ourselves and work on ourselves so we aren’t just body positive, but also mentally positive about our lives. These two things have to come together so all is right. Some women do have 'great' bodies but their minds say they’re not and this creates body dysmorphia. None of it is right. We have to bring peace and love back into our souls.”
The Stance intimates collection, which retails for between $16-$60 is currently available online and at Nordstrom.