Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Interview with Lauren Foster

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Lauren Foster, a South African model, actress, party promoter, transgender activist, marketing consultant, blogger on JustAnotherGirl.org, and now the new Director of Concierge for all things LGBTQ at the University of Miami Hospital. Hello Lauren! You look absolutely gorgeous …
Lauren: Good morning Monika. Thank you for your sweet words.
Monika: You are mostly known as a successful model. Do you sometimes look at the glossy magazines in which you were featured as one of the most beautiful models in the world?
Lauren: Growing up in South Africa, it was my dream to be a model and travel the world. I never thought it would happen. Looking back, I wish I had taken it all in more but I was young and it was Life just unraveling. I definitely appreciate it more now.

Wearing Burberry for Miami
LGBTQ Heroes.

Monika: What I find amazing is that you are still modeling… It is so difficult to remain too long in this business …
Lauren: I am very fortunate. I had a period of not working but in the last 6 or 7 years, my career rebooted itself. I think my 2 seasons on Real Housewives had a lot to do with it. I’m just happy to still be working.
Monika: When you look at your whole modeling career, posing for Vogue, endless fashion sessions in Johannesburg, Paris, Milan, New York, being the inspiration for many fashion designers, which moments or events decided about your incredible success?
Lauren: When I was living in Mexico City and my booker told me that VOGUE had requested me was probably my biggest “AH HA” moment. When the issue hit newsstands I bought it and spent the night staring at it and weeping. It was a strange feeling because I couldn’t share the fact that I was trans with anyone. Times have definitely changed.
Monika: Caroline Cossey and you were successful transgender models but both of you had to hide your transgender status. Now the fashion industry is full of transgender models: Lea T, Felipa Tavares, Ines Rau, Andreja Pejić, Amazon Eve, Valentijn de Hingh, and many more. How could you explain such a great interest of the fashion industry in transgender ladies?
Lauren: I have mixed feelings about this new interest in trans models. I would like to think that a model should be hired because they are thought to be the best person to showcase a designer’s brand or product, not because we are trans. I think Ines’ career path typifies this. Her body of work is stellar.
Monika: What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Lauren: I wear a lot of Rick Owens and vintage Helmut Lang. Their aesthetic suits me perfectly. I’m a big fan of sexy, edgy, comfortable clothing in muted shades.

Photo by Dale Stine.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Lauren: I think about them the same way I think about the interest in trans models. I think we should be judged as women, not trans women but I respect the pageant system because it has helped many girls and given them a platform to forge ahead to bigger and better things.
Monika: You are also known for your acting roles in The Real Housewives of Miami series, Circuit, and Joseph Lally’s artistic films, Faces and Miss America Commits Suicide. In retrospect, you had the intelligence, talent, and looks (still have!) to become a great Hollywood actress. Do you regret anything? Could you achieve more in this respect?
Lauren: Acting was my first love but being a model for years and having to hide the fact that I was trans stifled my interest in pursuing an acting career. There was a time when I was studying with Sally Kirkland at Lee Strasberg and really just loving my craft but my boyfriend always said that I would be outed and that stopped me from pursuing it further. Yes, I have regrets about it. I would love to be able to share my acting chops now. Are you listening, Jill Soloway?
Monika: You transitioned at the age of 18 with the support of your family, which is not a standard situation. Most of us lose our families and friends as a result of our transitions… 
Lauren: I owe everything to my wonderful parents. They were supportive and accepting from the get-go. I am the woman I am today ONLY because of their love. I am fortunate to work with trans youth now and help them on their journey, also counseling their parents. You’d be surprised at how many wonderful parents are out there.


Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Lauren: There were no trans role models for me growing up. My role models were music and fashion icons like Grace Jones and David Bowie. I met Grace in the ’90s in San Francisco and we worked together for almost a year. That was a dream come true for me.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Lauren: So many. Laverne, for so many reasons. Caroline, because we shared a very similar path. Trace Lysette is a huge talent and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning for her.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lauren: The hardest thing was being betrayed but luckily it all happened before the Internet and any news about me lasted for a week when it was out and then was probably lining the bottom of a birdcage a few weeks later. Now, with the Internet, things would be a lot different.

Photo by Ethan James Green for
CANDY magazine.

Monika: I have read somewhere that cis women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pills whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Being a marketing consultant for an anti-aging institute, would you agree with this statement?
Lauren: Even though I am fortunate to have a “passing” privilege I find it derogatory to judge us like this. There are many cis women who don’t live up to these lofty goals so why should trans women have to? I do, however, think procedures like FFS help late transitioners a lot. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful. 
Monika: You are working on your biography titled “Just Another Girl”. When is it going to be published? Which aspects of your experience and biography will be useful for other transwomen?
Lauren: To be honest, I shelved writing my book for now because I didn’t want to be just another trans person telling my life story. I will re-visit it at a later date.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lauren: Love is paramount in my life. I have always been in loving relationships. They fuel me. For the first 2 decades of my adult life, my partners were unaware of my identity. The last 4 partners knew about it and embraced it.
Love is exciting, stimulating, and important. I’ve just recently rekindled a romance from 19 years ago. He is an NYPD cop and a beautiful man. He accepts me as the woman I am. He doesn’t see my identity. I’m a lucky girl.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Lauren: I joined the University of Miami Hospital 10 months ago and work with the very talented gender surgeon Dr. Christopher Salgado. He is doing important work and has a huge future ahead of him.

Greg Gorman photo.

I am proud to be associated with him and UMH. There are a few projects that I am being offered that I cannot talk about right now but good things to come.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Lauren: It’s a difficult and confusing time. You are not alone. Remember this. Surround yourself with love and do your research.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Lauren: I definitely agree. I always say, when pressured to answer “When did you transition?”, that I transitioned on an operating table for 6 hours.
That was it! I was born a woman. Not a trans woman. I don’t live at that address.
Monika: Lauren, thank you for the interview!
Lauren: Thank you, Monika. It was my pleasure.

All the photos: courtesy of Lauren Foster.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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