Each person I interview is exciting for me. I get to learn more about them, and how they live their lives. There are moments in our life when we meet somebody in our lives, and come away astonished at how much stuff they have gone through and are still joyful and happy in their life. Interviewing Lauren, and hearing about her story was inspirational and moving. Lauren was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and it held her back from her modeling career. She was also a victim of Hurricane Sandy, which happened two weeks prior to the date of a photo shoot Lauren had for a billboard ad. She lost almost all of her personal belongings from furniture to childhood pictures, but it did not break her spirit or smile. Her family’s two homes were damaged as well as her family’s business. Still, Lauren did not give up, and she volunteered for a local church, where she cooked, and fed those were less fortunate. Lauren is still continuing to chase her dreams, and I’m honored to tell you a little bit more about her.
Justin Marroquin: How did you get into modeling?
Lauren Ashley: As a young girl I always dreamed of being a model. While in NYC one day, I was approached by a talent scout for Wilhelmina and joined “America’s Next Top Model” contest. I was unable to sign the contract due to being on mind altering medication since I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and was just starting treatment. I then just did promo modeling. Last summer I did a hair ad for my hair stylist mentor, Michael Miller. During the photo shoot the photographer asked if I would like to pursue my modeling career. I then made my portfolio, and did some editorial work. Then, my first paid job for an ad wound up being on a billboard in Las Vegas. I always said “one day I’m going to be that girl” while pointing at a billboard ad, while walking through Manhattan. Well, that dream came true!
JM: Describe what you went through when you were diagnosed with Lyme disease?
LA: I became ill in 2004-2005. I was extremely fatigued, suffered from joint pain, small seizures, mental fog, aches all over, and was so weak at times, my father had to carry me into my doctors. Being I was young and did not look sick, it was a tough battle. I was blood tested at least once a month, or sometimes twice a month for over a year. Doctors and nurses did not believe me because I did not appear ill. I was told I must be on drugs by pediatrician’s nurse because of my age and the symptoms I had. It was a very difficult time for myself as well as family and friends. Everyone close to me knew there was something wrong, and knew that I was not under the influence. In 2007, I tested positive for the western blot test and began treatment. About six months after treatment, I began feeling all the symptoms again. My infectious disease doctor had said “there is no way possible you could have Lyme disease again. You must have HIV or some type of lymphoma.” That being said with no significant reason broke me into tears. I had just been tested one week prior, and was negative for HIV and my blood cell count was 14, which is only slightly elevated. There was no medical signs or reasons as to why the doctor would say that. A month had went by, and I was tested for Lyme disease again, and had a new stain of the Lyme bacteria, and when through treatment again in December of 2008. This was the worst thing to go through, and I do not wish Lyme disease on anyone. I hope someday they will find a cure!
JM: After going through that, how did your life and modeling career change?
AL: After becoming ill with the Lyme disease, my life changed a lot. I have to make sure I eat healthy, and get as much rest as I could. I couldn’t go out with friends and celebrate being 21. I couldn’t keep up with my friends and a social life because I was always so tired. It also caused complications between my boyfriend and I. We soon broke up after he said I had no chance at being a model, and no one would ever love me because I was sick. Everything consumed my mind in a negative way, and I no longer tried to pursue my dream career. I kept track of everything I ate and every symptom I felt. Doing that was supposed to help me keep track of what to stay away from to feel better. I soon realized that I was focusing on what was wrong instead of what was right, and positive in my life. I stopped keeping track of every little thing in late 2010, and began meditating and Reiki therapy. I’m not saying it’s all in your head, but sometimes as a complex as our lives are now, we tend to forget how powerful our minds really are. I focused on getting healthy mentally and physically for a year. Then when I was to pursue my dream career!
JM: You are a strong, positive woman. How do you stay that way?
AL: The saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true and is something I live by. I have friends who also have Lyme disease, and I help them out by sharing advice, books, and self-experiences. Helping others cope, and making them feel like they are not alone like I did, really makes me happy. I have to stay positive not for myself, but for them as well. “Being positive is contagious, smile without a doubt, laugh without a care, live your life with no remorse. Make others smile, and live the positive life just as you are. Your strength will grow to overcome every obstacle you face in life while mentally blocking out negativity.”–Lauren Ashley
JM: What are some of your beliefs and values?
LA: I believe that you have to be strong and independent to get what you want in life; you just have to work for it. You can achieve anything you wish if you believe in yourself. I value my family, friends, and my strength. Without family and friends, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
JM: Going through so much in your life, how do you keep moving forward?
AL: I set goals for myself and write them down. Your past is history, and you can only learn and grow from it.
JM: What is your advice on how to accomplish a dream or goal?
AL: Write down your dreams and goals; hang it somewhere you will see it each day. Then as you achieve each one, cross them off.
JM: You were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Describe what you went through?
AL: I live in the Jersey Shore area, and we were mandatory evacuation October 28, 2012. My family and I went to my grandparents a few miles inland. Our pets were freaking out, and kept looking in the direction of the ocean; the dogs were whimpering, and the cat ran right in his carrier! While driving there I was almost struck by the lining of a truck bed that was at the stop light across from me. The wind was so strong it was hard to control the vehicle. I felt like I was in the “Wizard of Oz” and it was something I have never experienced before. The power went out around 9 p.m. that evening, and all cell phones had stopped getting service. The sounds of the storm were like something from a movie, I couldn’t sleep. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen, and was scared and sick to my stomach. I was scared for my life! My cell phone would get one bar of service every so often, so I was able to send and receive text messages while I had service. My family and I returned to our homes the next day. On the way home stuck in traffic, seeing all fallen trees and telephone poles had already made me nervous to return home. The main road was still flooded with a foot of water in some areas, including where I had lived. My parent’s street wasn’t as bad; we were still without power and it was dark, so we couldn’t really see the damage. In the morning we went to where I had lived, the home flooded with three and a half feet of contaminated flood water. I had to throw out everything I owned. Furniture to childhood photo albums. I didn’t lose hope or my smile, and my family was there to help me. I just kept thinking that I had my photo shoot for my first paid ad coming up in two weeks, and things could’ve been worse. My parent’s two homes were damaged as well as our family business. Being I had to toss my belongings to the curb, I arranged some so that the neighbors would smile. The National Guard were on almost every street corner in my town for over a month; it was certainly not a pleasant time. I helped volunteer at a local church on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons to help prepare meals for those that lost everything, and had nowhere to live. Doing so, made happy knowing with all I lost personally, I could still help out others.
JM: Is there a certain goal you are trying to achieve right now?
AL: Currently, I am in Playboy’s Miss Social contest, so I hope that I will soon win. I also wish to be a Guess model.
JM: What do you think the meaning of life is?
AL: There is no exact meaning of life, it is self-belonging. No two people have the same opinion on what the meaning is. I believe the meaning of life is creating yourself, finding what makes you happy, having an open heart to love, and living your own life. If you keep searching for the meaning, you will not be living your life; just as if you keep searching the meaning of happiness, you will not truly be happy.
A note on modeling and the mind: It’s not all about what you see, but what you don’t see. It’s not just about looking good and being pretty. It appears that way to the eye. What is the real emotion hidden behind the beauty? How do we hide the true emotions we feel? We do it with our minds, escape reality, and get into “character.”–Lauren Ashley
Follow Lauren on Twitter: twitter.com/LaurenAshley0X0
Like her page on Facebook: facebook.com/x.Lauren.Ashley.x
Vote for her on Playboy Miss Social: playboymisssocial.com/laurenromanowski
Check out her website: xlaurenashleyx.com
See her photos on Instagram: instagram.com/x0laurenashley0x
Photo Credit: JAMills