She’s known as the girl with the golden legs, but Lauren Wasser’s super strength is really her steely determination. In 2012, when she was 24-years-old, she was admitted to hospital suffering from life-threatening symptoms as a result of tampon-related Toxic Shock Syndrome. The harrowing ordeal would eventually claim both of her legs, but it hasn’t stopped Wasser from chasing her goals of making a difference in the world and fighting for safer feminine hygiene products. Depicted as The Athlete in Emma Summerton’s Pirelli Calendar 2023, ‘Love Letter to the Muses,’ the California-native wants to prove that everything is within our grasp, if we just keep pushing forward. Here’s how she finds that unwavering strength!
I was admiring your tattoos earlier…particularly the birds, do they mean anything?
My godfather passed away, rest in peace, so I got these praying hands, and the three little birds are [in reference] to when I was in hospital fighting for my life and Bob Marley’s song Three Little Birds—”Every little thing is going to be ok”—and by the grace of God, it is.
How many tattoos do you have?
Quite a lot! My mom wrote this one, I love you, which is one of my favorites.
You’ve made history so many times in your career, this is another time. How did it feel to get the call to be a part of the calendar?
Such an honor. And to be shooting it with such creative geniuses was mind blowing. It’s art. I’ll frame mine and put it on my wall!
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What do you want people to feel when they look at your image?
I hope they feel empowerment. This is a collection of women that are doing badass things in this world that we’re all trying to navigate. We’re all trying to empower the next generation of women. We’re more than models; we represent so many different things and we’re all different characters. To see us all collaborate, come together, and to see it come to life, it’s so cool. Being there was epic enough, but to see it now—it’s really taken my breath away.
Tell us about the image itself and what you were trying to embody.
Emma had the direction of me being Joan of Arc. Seeing the set, having me stand on a half crescent moon and hold this heavy ass sword, it felt really cool. I’m so honored to be with all these women.
There seems to be a tarot card element too, are you into the cosmos? Do you trust that things are written in the universe for you?
I know that things happen for a reason! I had a 1% chance of survival—I should not be here, medically speaking. My medical stack is huge, but I’m here and I know that I have a purpose. You can’t make this shit up! It’s definitely pre-destined and pre-planned, it’s been a crazy wild ride but a beautiful journey.
Your parents were models [Pamela Cook and Robert Wasserburger], was this always the end goal for you too?
I never wanted to model. I played basketball and was an athlete, so maybe being in the WNBA was one of my goals but it definitely wasn’t being in the Pirelli Calendar at the time! It was just beating up boys and all that stuff. I think since losing my legs and having to rebuild myself and learn who I am, now I use my platform and what I look like to showcase what we need to change in this world, how women are empowered, and fight for protection and our rights.
What are some of those other changes you hope to influence?
I hope that we can get more transparency around feminine hygiene products. I hope that we get safe products that we don’t lose our limbs or die from. We need to own ourselves—knowledge is key, so we need to keep having conversations and build each other up.
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The theme of The Cal is centered on muses—who are some of yours?
Ooh, damn! I think I’m my own muse. I’ve had to go through the trenches, dig deep, and figure out who I am and what my place is on this planet. I think I’ve done a really good job, and I think it’s just the beginning too! So to be able to be in this lineup of incredible women, I feel so honored.
If you could write a love letter to your younger self, what would it contain?
Just don’t give up. This moment is temporary and things are going to get better. It’s the little hurdles and the little things that we have to get over and when we look back on what we’ve overcome, and think ‘Damn, I made it through that,’ it’ll push us to keep pushing forward and go harder and faster. Just believe in yourself and own every part of you. If you own it, no one can say shit about it!