BlackBook Exclusive: Model and Activist Lauren Wasser Talks Tampons, Transformation and TSS

Photography: Jennifer Rovero


New Yorkers and fashion industry elite were first introduced to Lauren Wasser on the Chromat runway in February 2016. With her sleek blonde hair and deep blue eyes (not to mention her 5’11” figure), the then 27-year-old had been modeling for years, and was a perfect fit on the Fashion Week catwalk – with one striking difference: she walked not in sky-high heels, but with a gold prosthetic leg from an amputation resulting from an almost lethal case of toxic shock in 2012.

Since then, the Los Angeles-based Wasser has been an outspoken opponent of tampon companies and a fierce advocate for body positivity and survivors of TSS. But it wasn’t always so easy. Used to being in front of the camera, Lauren vividly recalled the moment she woke up from surgery, realizing she’d lost her leg, in a video with StyleLikeU.

“Immediately I woke up from the amputation and I felt every single thing that happened for 24 hours,” she said. “[…]I was miserable. I hated everyone. I hated everything. I hated myself.”

That’s when she began – slowly – the process of healing. With the help of her girlfriend, photographer Jennifer Rovero, who took photos of Lauren throughout the process, Wasser began documenting and sharing her experience. Now, she’s collecting stories from other TSS survivors and trying to pass legislation that would give women a better understanding of the products they’re putting in their bodies. And after going in for surgery to remove her other leg last week, Wasser is also trying to get back to doing some of things that made her happy before all of this.

“I want to run marathons,” she said, “and I want to go to the Maldives and jump into the water because I haven’t been able to swim in five years.”

She continued: “But I also want to work again. Model, act and fight the good fight. I want to be happy.”

The model-turned-activist tells her story to BlackBook.



Why has it been so important for you to be so outspoken about your experience with TSS? 

I never want another person to go through what I have. The fact that it’s been happening for over 30 years disgusts me, to be honest. When people say ‘rare,’ it makes my blood boil – [TSS] is not as rare as one might think, and even one person alone is enough. I wonder how anyone in the FDA would react if it happened to their daughter, sister, cousin, wife or anyone close to them?

What’s been the result of sharing your story?

Since my girlfriend and I shared my story, a lot of dormant alternative feminine hygiene brands got an open lane to come up. We opened the conversation, and I’m proud of that. Women are also becoming more aware and paying attention to what they’re putting in their bodies. The fight isn’t over yet, though. There’s plenty more women to reach.

Part of being open about that journey has been through photography. Has that been challenging for you, especially as a model?

Photography actually changed my life. My girlfriend, Jennifer Rovero, is a photographer and she used phototherapy – a term she coined – to help me heal. She healed my self-esteem. She worked on me for awhile before I could face myself, or anyone else for that matter. It was really hard because I didn’t like myself, and she taught me how to love myself again. And now when I’m on set, I feel powerful.



Getting back in front of the camera and into the fashion industry after your amputation, how has your experience changed?

I can no longer wear heels due to the type of prosthetic I need. So, I don’t get the call for those types of shoots anymore. However, now that I’ll soon have two golden prosthetics, I can do anything. But it’s also changed for me on a bigger scale, because now I’m fighting for body positivity and awareness.

TSS is something I’d always heard about, but never paid much attention to. Was it something you were concerned with before you actually experienced it?

I was taught about TSS at a young age, but I don’t think I was old enough to understand the real dangers. I also was born in 1988 and I had never seen or heard of anyone who’d suffered TSS, nor did I know that it had been harming women since before I was born. I think most women are ill-informed, so any information that’s passed down isn’t enough or accurate. For instance, most people and even some doctors say it’s rare and not to leave your tampon in too long. That information can get you in trouble.

So, what are your goals when it comes to legislation and educating women about the risks of tampons? 

More transparency – we live in a day and age where technology is so advanced and these privately manufactured companies have the ability to make safer products. We also look forward to meeting face to face with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney this year in hopes of joining forces to help her pass the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Act that she’s put forth 10 times and been rejected. Hopefully, together we can make a change.


Are you still asking women on Instagram to contact you with their TSS stories? 

My girlfriend and I are asking for stories because we are working on a project together. We are still accepting them, but honestly, I wish there were no stories. It’s bittersweet. But anyone who has a story and would like to share please send a message with the subject “I suffered TSS” to

If you could go back before this experience and tell yourself something, what would it be?

You know, I think I’d rather a little bird have come to me when I was in the hospital and said, ‘Hey you were sent here to break the ceiling on this huge injustice. We pick you to fight!’ Is that crazy? Maybe that would have taken away a lot of the pain and sorrow had I understood that from the beginning. It’s my mission. To every woman out there, I hope my story saves you or a loved one. Be aware, do research and support one another.

On the Job with Street Style Photographer Adam Katz Sinding

Photos by Adam Katz Sinding

Fall has officially arrived and NYFW is here again without warning. The line for your daily iced latte just got longer and far more fashionable. The vintage Levi’s you lived in all summer long suddenly aren’t as chic as the woman next to you striking a pose in sharp black tailoring and a double espresso. Your sunglasses probably don’t feel big enough either (how else are you going to put up with all the attitude in the air?) While you’re busy having a mini-crisis because you stayed in summer one day too long, photographer Adam Katz Sinding is quite keen to this shift, for a new season of style stars awaits his guise.


We jumped on the phone with the man behind Le 21ème while in Amsterdam on his eve of fashion month and his flight to New York. That’s a thirty-day circuit and an average of three hours of sleep per night not even Morgan Spurlock could prepare for. He stays up to tell us what he’s thinking.

Who do you look forward to shooting every season?

I look forward to finding new people, new venues, new cities, and new looks.  It’s always exciting to see new things and try to capture them in a way that creates a memory of that moment.

When you think of the familiar faces you’ve shot, who’s the first person that comes to mind?

I would say, if I have to pick ONE person: Natasha Goldenberg.

In your opinion, what makes for a great street style image?

The light is paramount. Bad light can ruin an amazing moment. There are so many lighting situations where I see other photographers shooting, and my camera is just at my hip, untouched.  I just don’t want to take a photo in certain light. It doesn’t look nice, and there’s no point in taking a bad photo of a good person.

Give us a high and low moment from past fashion week experiences?

Gucci one year ago in the most torrential rain I’ve even been in.  Four or five of us had our camera’s broken by it.  It was horrible.  Also shooting outside Victoria Beckham in February in -17 celsius was pretty painful.  A great high moment was shooting outside Vetements in July and having not so many nice photos due to a horrible venue, then walking to the next venue in a pretty bad mood, only to have Rick Owens walk out of a random cafe all alone and cross the street in front of Opéra Garnier.  It was only myself and one friend there and it really made my whole day.

From your experience behind the lense, how would you differentiate NYFW street style from other fashion weeks?

NYFW is hard work.  Jam packed with shows.  The weather sucks.  Freezing winters and boiling summers.  It’s dynamic, and I like that.  NYFW is not my favorite as far as street style goes, but the difficulties make it very exciting, so it ranks high on my list.


How has your job changed over the years? How has fashion week changed?

Each season there are new and more photographers.  When I started there were maybe 20 people. Now there are 500 shooting.  It’s hard.  Cops, barriers, paparazzi, everyone is in our way.  The challenge makes it exciting.  If there were just 20 people shooting, I’d probably be bored by how easy it is.

It’s 30 days and 3 hours of sleep. That must take a toll. What drives you to take on that sort of schedule? What do you gain at the end of it, aside from, well, a paycheck?

I did this for free for years.  I’m not here for the money.  I love this job, and I refuse to let the financial gains be my primary fuel-source.  I do this because I love the challenge.  We all work SO hard.  We sweat, we freeze, we run through traffic, risk our lives, or safety, our health.  Just to take a photo of what…some girl in some nice shoes?  It sounds to stupid on paper, but it’s so much fun.  I’m so lucky.  I just want to take the best photo out there.  Every day is like the Olympics, and I want that fucking Gold Medal.

Early Unreleased Amy Winehouse Images to be Published in Crowdfunded Photography Book

Photo via Kickstarter

“The first time I met Amy Winehouse was the day I shot her album cover Frank,” explains photographer Charles Moriarty, reminiscing how the two captured her debut LP’s artwork on Princeton Street after picking up white wine together in London. After years of coping with the Black to Black singer’s death in 2011, 34-year-old Moriarty’s ready to share unreleased photos from that distant, special day.

With the help of a Kickstarter, Moriarty’s raised sufficient funds to publish Before FRANK, a photography book which will feature between 50 to 60 never-before-seen images from when he captured Winehouse, then 19, in London and New York. With one week remaining in its fundraising lifespan, Before FRANK has already exceeded its original $21,249 goal.

Before FRANK will include an exclusive forward from Oscar-winning AMY director Asif Kapadia, and will be designed by Dutch designer Sybren Kuiper, who famously designed Viviane Sassens’ Flamboya. 

“I think the majority of people globally are only familiar with her second album, and the person she was toward the end of her life,” Moriarty told the Daily News. “I want to change that. I’d like people to have a fuller picture, to see the girl I knew.”

Photographer Rémi Lamandé Spent 11 Years Creating Risqué Fashion Images of His Little Brother

Not every seven-year-old living in the countryside of France would be comfortable putting on wigs and weird fashion, but for the past 11 years, photographer Rémi Lamandé has been collaborating with his little brother Eric to create photos that are, if vaguely unsettling, incredibly beautiful. The fashion world has taken notice, too: Lamandé shoots for VMan032CModern Weekly China and L”Officiel Hommes Korea. He has collaborated with clients like Louis Vuitton, Marani, Komakino and another rising talent, designer Chris Gelinas of CG. He has also worked with us, and you can see some of Rémi”s work for BlackBook here. Still, he continues to build on his special bond with his brother. Every time they see each other (they”re separated by an ocean), the ritual continues; it”s a series of work that Lamandé eventually plans to turn into a book.

Here he explains his inspirations, favorite photos, and shares some of the photos he”s been taking of his brother for more than a decade.



When did you start taking photos? Do you remember the first photo you took?

I started taking pictures when I was 18, in art school.

I used to draw and paint before moving on to photography, but I still draw most of my pictures beforehand.

The first photos I took were a few of my friends in fluorescent clothing reenacting biblical scenes, not too proud of this one…

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Can you talk about the personal project we’re showing (some of) here?

I take pictures of my little brother every time I see him; it’s a mix of natural portraits and set up scenarios.

I’m compiling them and will release them as a book when I feel like they are ready.

I began shooting him when he was seven (he’s 18 now), during the Christmas holiday, and it’s become our ritual every time we see each other. It’s very special to me.

It’s funny because we have both got very used to it, and I’d feel weird now, seeing him and not taking his picture.

Although I make him do very uncomfortable things and I’m the only one enjoying it.


What”s your favorite photo you”ve ever taken?

I love this photo of Eric with a blue face, holding his coat against the wind in front of the sea.


Who/what inspires you?

Many movies: I love Gregg Araki movies, the Werner Herzog Nosferatu, Hausu, Hypnotized and Hysterical (Hairstylist Wanted)

I love the Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. I love Rudi Gernreich… Oh and I love Jamie Hewlett’s illustrations, especially for Gorillaz, they’re so good.

What are you working on next?

Continuing this project with Eric and upcoming photo stories.

I’m actually looking for a prosthetic make up artist for one of them, anyone??

© Rémi Lamandé © Rémi Lamandé

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All photos courtesy of Rémi Lamandé. View more of Rémi”s work here.

MoMA Acquires Complete August Sander Photograph Series

August Sander
“Film Actress [Tony van Eyck]”, 1933 + “Artists’ Carnival in Cologne”, 1931 by August Sander, courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Some new faces are popping up in MoMA after a landmark acquisition of August Sander photographs.

The German documentary photographer began chronicling the lives of the peasant class with stark sepia portraiture after serving in the German military and working as a miner in the early 20th century. Similar to the work Dorothea Lange did in the Dust Bowl, Sander’s work pierces the zeitgeist of a particular society with an anthropological lens.

In a recent milestone acquisition, MoMA can now boast having “People Of the 20th Century” in its entirety. Sander’s pivotal series, a set of 619 photographic prints, contains portraits of the German working class, mixing the faces of draughtsmen, farmers, mothers, soldiers, bohemians, and more in a diverse documentation completed over the period of about 60 years.

MoMA is the only museum in the world that has an entire set of Sander’s work like this, bestowed upon them from the artist’s family. No other can compare.

On the acquisition of some 600 works, Sarah Hermanson Meister, a photography curator at MoMA, exuded her excitement over the phone this morning, “[The 80 photographs the museum previously held] never felt sufficient, now it’s everything we could have dreamed of. [Sander’s] reputation rests on a couple dozen photographs that have become iconic, but with all 619 there are so many surprises.”

Meister also remarked on a sense of completion within the context of other works in MoMA’s collection, namely those of Walker Evans and Eugène Atget, two other important documentary photographers who influenced and were influenced by Sander. “These three figures can be now be understood completely in one institution.”

Patrik Ervell’s No-Clothes Spring Campaign Features Never Before Seen Peter Hujar Photos

Patrik Ervell‘s spring ads don’t feature any of his own products; what is featured are never before seen Peter Hujar photos for Patrik Ervell in his spring campaign, both portrait and still life, taken by the photographer in the early ’80s. Even though there’s not a hint of Ervell’s own designs in sight, his message in the project, a collaboration with Nick Vogelson/NV&A, is crystal clear. Here, an interview with the designer about the wild west of Instagram, and re-appropriating Peter Hujar’s 1980s photography to mean something new for his own brand in 2015.

How did you first discover Peter Hujar’s work?

I was familiar with him from reading about the New York art scene from the early ‘80s; he’s a contemporary of David Wojnarowicz, and even [Robert] Mapplethorpe. He was the one who’s less known, a bit undiscovered. I feel like he’s ripe for rediscovery, there’s a retrospective, a book coming out. He’s kind of this legendary figure and at the same time is sort of undiscovered.

Like your spring collection, Hujar’s photographs are clean, stripped of frills or excess. His work is very rooted in the ‘70s and ‘80s [maybe his most famous photograph is Candy Darling on Her Deathbed in 1973], whereas your collection is modern feeling. What about it resonated with you?

I think that the images I chose are from that period — you know the people, you know the context — if you look at them they’re also really timeless. I look at the images I’m using and I feel like they could have been taken last week, or they could have been taken in the ‘50s even. They don’t belong to a specific time, to my eye. They’re classic. They’re timeless.


How do you feel these selections you’ve chosen for the campaign reflect your spring collection? Are there any parallels thematically or stylistically between the two?

I think there’s an attitude and a mood, but no, I wasn’t really concerned with—obviously when I’m doing that I’ve already abandoned the idea of showing product. So then it really is about the feeling.

What is it about fashion advertising today that made you decide to use photos that don’t include any of your designs?

I’ve done a few different rounds of ad campaigns. I have to say, this is the one that I’ve gotten the most echo, if that makes sense. I think people are numb to fashion images. Like, here’s another one. And I think they’re sort of changing the context a little bit, so that it’s actually much more meaningful to people. Also I think that it’s kind of a cultural moment for them bubbling up now. I remember when I first noticed it happening was on Instagram, it’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing, where people would share something and put a Nike logo in the corner. It’s kind of appropriating imagery and making them into fake ads.

Kind of like Doug Abraham (@Bessnyc4)?

He’s the most well known one. But I feel like people were doing that before him. It’s something about our time, it’s almost that sort of being able to pop a logo on something, it’s like easy Photoshop, taking an image changing it there, especially on Instagram where it’s kind of the wild west in terms of copyright law, you can take any image from anywhere, and do whatever you want with it. That’s a rare space in our world; there are very few places that that exists. I think that idea of just re-appropriating or borrowing images and putting your logo on it, making it your ad, is something that bubbled up from a Tumblr/Instagram aesthetic and world.


How would you summarize how these photos represent your brand? What’s the Patrik Ervell message in Peter Hujar’s photos?

I think there’s a romantic modernism. That’s always the shorthand I think of. It’s a clean, modern aesthetic, but at the same time it’s deeply romantic. I think that his images have that.


You Should Be Inspired By… Bibi Cornejo Borthwick, Photographer

Photo courtesy of Bibi Cornejo Borthwick

Bibi Cornejo Borthwick’s unfettered images are easily reminiscent of a dream-state; Cornejo Borthwick captures her subjects solely on film, which allows for a happenstance beauty to appear– see above for proof. In her images, it’s easy to see that sometimes letting go is the best way to let the grace and charm of the subject shine through.

At only 24, the young photographer has already shot for publications such as Dazed and Confused, T Magazine, Pop, and L’Officiel Hommes. Here she shares with us a few things that inspire her work and life.


“The MET. I can spend hours getting lost in that museum.” (1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY.)



“Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews by Calvin Tompkins. My absolute favorite book.” (Available here.)



“Another favorite book of mine is Gerhard Richter’s Atlas.” (Available here.)



“The best album is Finley Quaye’s Maverick a Strike.” (Available here.)



“My favorite scent to wear is Narciso Rodriguez.” (Available here.)



“In my home, I burn Feu de Bois by Diptyque.” (Available here.)



View more of Bibi’s work here.

Man Up and Get Sexy with Suiting

By the beautiful August we’re having, you’d be forgiven for forgetting to get your fall shopping in order. But here’s a hint to get you started: No cooler weather wardrobe would be complete without simple suiting– think of Helmut Newton’s models wearing Le Smoking — is there anything chicer?

Sure, you can show up in black, but borrowing a few more details from the boys’ll draw even more eyes. Herringbone and houndstooth looked good this season on the men at Saint Laurent and Valentino, and it’ll look just as good on you in this iteration from Tommy Hilfiger.


A print this subtle’ll draw all the right eyes just a little closer, so make sure you’re ready for the extra interest.

Kat (Marilyn) wears Tommy Hilfiger women’s houndstooth blazer and pant.

Photographer: Justin Bridges
Hair/makeup: Margina Dennis
Fashion editor: Alyssa Shapiro

Special thanks to Pamela Bell

Fifth Harmony Girls Are All Grown Up–Meet the Next Power Girl Group

Fifth Harmony by Justin Bridges

Girl power is alive and well! OR Whoever said solo artists are the new girl group is seriously disturbed… and has definitely never heard of Fifth Harmony!

Having gotten their start on X Factor in 2012, the five member pop posse has since gone on to open up for artists like Demi Lovato and Cher Lloyd, headline four national tours, win 12 awards, and release chart topping singles (btw, OBSESSED with “BO$$”!) with their highly anticipated debut album on the way… Not to mentioned their appearance at last night’s Teen Choice Awards… oh, and they’re nominated for a VMA later this month. We caught up the girls to talk tour essentials, man crushes, and the future of Fifth. Check it out below!

Click on all the images to see photos full screen.

What are your five tour essentials?

Ally: My phone AND charger (that counts as one), makeup, my passport, My stuffed animal MooseMoose, and my earbuds.

Dinah: Jewelry (my BO$$ necklace), some great headphones, hand sanitizer (we meet A LOT of people), Clean & Clear makeup remover wipes, and Polaroids of my family!

Camila: Books (it’s a fun escape from reality and it passes the time on long rides from venue to venue), my laptop, cold turkey (for emergencies only,) and headphones.

Normani: My Hello Kitty blanky (my mom never forgets to pack when I’m on the road lol,) nail glue (you never know if you’ll have a nail malfunction,) Snack Emergency Kit (chicken soup, jerky, tuna packets, candy etc.,) shower flip flops, and my rosary (my family gave it to me and it means a lot to me).

Lauren: Definitely my phone, my notebook (I love writing), my favorite boots, a camera and my Sudoku book (an essential for any travel)!

Who’s your ultimate crush?

Ally: Justin Timberlake!

Dinah: Chris Brown

Camila: Spider Man (the original)

Normani: Breezy!

Lauren: I can’t say!

What’s the secret to getting along in a girl band?

Ally: I definitely think communication is key– specifically listening (to each other). Everyone has something important to contribute and everyone deserves to be heard.

Dinah: We’re always around each other and treat each other like sisters– at the end of the day, I know I can count on any of them when I need ‘em! We support each other like a family.

Camila: Embracing and acknowledging the different assets that each person brings to the table (whether it’s during recording process or rehearsing for a new tour, etc.) is really important. Each of us has something unique that makes us a special piece of this group.

Normani: Being supportive of each other is really important. We have all sacrificed a lot and have crazy schedules and are away from our families for long periods of time, so it helps when you know that you’re not alone and that you can lean on your girls.

Lauren: We’ve been at this together for a couple of years now and I think being respectful to each other is the secret.

What’s your biggest dream for Fifth Harmony?

Ally: Winning a Grammy would be amazing!! I also would love for us to be able to enjoy the world together. As well as helping people all over the globe.

Dinah: Performing with Beyoncé would be crazy! OR collaborating with Beyoncé!

Camila: I still can’t even believe we’re nominated for a VMA, but winning would really be a dream. I’d love to travel and perform overseas more too.

Normani: I feel like it would be amazing to perform at the President’s house one day! I have always dreamed of making that happen and also getting to collaborate with my ultimate favorite artist Beyoncé!

Lauren: Our fans are really amazing and I’d love to get to travel to Europe and perform over there. Also, collaborating with some of our favorite artists would be pretty awesome.

Something in your purse that no one would expect you to have?

Ally: My reading glasses

Dinah: I keep bras in my purse!

Camila: I carry around pink Crocs in my purse (because I’m clearly fashionable).

Normani: I carry my prom picture around in my backpack everywhere I go.

Lauren: I used to carry around vinyl records (from fans)!

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See Justin Bridges’ BlackBook photos of Jacob Latimore here, then check out this interview with Wiz Khalifa.

Photography: Justin Bridges
Hair and makeup: Ashley Rebecca
Special thanks to the Dream Hotel Downtown