Lauren Wasser grew up in the fashion milieu, appearing with her model mother, Pamela Cook, in Italian Vogue when she was just a baby. Wasser gave up a full-ride basketball scholarship to pursue modeling, but her career—and life—was threatened in 2012 when she learned she had toxic shock syndrome, a rare bacterial infection that can be contracted through the use of tampons. Wasser eventually lost both legs to the disease and has devoted herself to advocacy on behalf of sufferers everywhere, working with Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York on legislation requiring manufacturers to list all ingredients of feminine hygiene products.
“To me, an ideal world would look like change; we’d no longer have manufacturers choosing to put things inside tampons, which we put inside our bodies at the most vulnerable time, that endanger women for the sake of profit,” Wasser says. “I’m so fortunate that I’m in the place that I am, and that I’m able to advocate for women and toxic shock syndrome survivors, because the disease is still very much here.”