Many of you may be familiar with the dramatic story of the beautiful Lauren Scruggs Kennedy. Lauren was a Dallas Fashion Blogger when, in a single moment, her life was changed forever. Exiting a private plane, she was accidentally sucked into an airplane propeller with devastating consequences. Lauren lost her left hand and her left eye in this tragic accident and opens up about the lessons that she’s learned and how God has been a constant in her life uplifting her and carrying her through life’s challenges. Welcome, Lauren! We are delighted to connect with you and share the first part of our interview together.
CGO: Lauren, you have been through so much in a short amount of time. Life is filled with twists and turns and unexpected moments. In December 2011, your life changed forever. You have shared how important your faith and God’s love for you helped you during your darkest moments. You have shared that you now know what true beauty really means. Please share with us what you learned about faith and the meaning of true beauty.
LS: I think that stands as the foundation of my life, as God is never changing. Our outward beauty is constantly changing as is everything in the world, but God’s love for us is always there and comforting you as a person. God is everything. God is hope and encouragement for others. To me, that’s true beauty. Beauty is what’s inside of you.
CGO: That’s so true, Lauren, and it’s so obvious when we met that true beauty radiates from your heart. We live in an outside-in world while you clearly learned that life works inside-out. You say that true beauty is on the inside. Tell us what that means for you.
LS: My parents always taught me that beauty comes from within. I don’t think I fully understood that concept until my accident and my outward appearance shifted. It was the opposite of what I had expected. People were so kind and greeted me with even more love, respect and compassion. It was so beautiful for me to see that and refreshing as well. It seemed to open up incredible love and compassion in their own lives as well.
CGO: When it comes down to it, it really is about the love that’s in your heart. Lauren, this a more difficult question that I’m going ask you, if you’re comfortable. Take me back to the time following the accident when you looked in the mirror for the very first time. What was that experience like for you?
LS: I remember just being home from the hospital. I got up one day and I felt my arm, and had the realization that this really happened. I did lose my hand. It’s not a nightmare! I had this huge bandage on my eye and half of my head is shaved, and I love beautiful hair. I remember getting into the shower and crying my eyes out. To be honest, I was in shock and I was trying to process everything that had happened. As a woman, it’s natural to feel that you’re losing a part of yourself. The beauty of a tragedy is that it quickly puts everything into it’s proper perspective. I learned in an instant that true beauty can only be found within.
CGO: Lauren, we talked about the ultimate irony of you losing your hand and your eye yet this allowed you to begin seeing clearly and realizing the meaning of true beauty. You talk about being raised in a “faith filled” home. What does “God” mean to you?
LS: I know God created each of us with love and purpose with such incredible wisdom. He’s literally the author of our lives and the ultimate foundation for how I live my life. It’s about praying and listening for guidance as to where to walk next. We have to listen to receive messages as to who to reach out to as God is always talking to us. God is there when we are walking next to another to help comfort them during difficult times. I have experienced God as being a protector. I see God as a redeemer for me. I went through some very challenging and painful times and God has redeemed them for me and transformed these experiences into beautiful lessons. God is in it with us, and he understands. We might feel alone in any given moment but we have to realize that God is always by our side.
CGO: We see a lot of celebrities struggling once they’ve made it big. I see the problem stemming from their not knowing who they are on the inside as their sole identification is with their external image.
LS: I think it’s accepting your story and what’s happened to you in your life, as always having a purpose. Jason (Lauren’s husband) and I talk about this a lot together. We have no idea how many lives have been impacted by my sharing my story. When people allow themselves to be vulnerable to share and help others, there’s a powerful ripple effect that begins. We may never know all the people that we’ve touched. Living in Los Angeles, it’s important to know who you are and to be consistent in order to stay grounded. It’s very important to own who you are and to walk in confidence.
CGO: I’m going to assume that most people thought that you were confident before the accident but this is a different kind of confidence. The kind of confidence that comes from life experience and overcoming adversity. Confidence is a very magnetic quality. What does this new found confidence feel like for you?
LS: I know that it’s made me so much more self aware and aware of other people.
CGO: We have a very beautiful mutual friend in Dallas, Cathy Terrell Williamson, who is also a survivor in her own right. Having survived a deadly form of breast cancer called Triple Negative, Cathy talks about the peace that enveloped her throughout her recovery. You experienced a similar peace. Can you describe that inner feeling that helped you get through your darkest days?
LS: I remember laying in bed one night and my Mom slept with me for about two weeks after I came home. We were just laying there. She turned to me and asked me, “Can you feel the peace in this room?” And, I said, yes! It was kind of crazy that the peace was so palpable to us. It was as though so many people were praying and we could actually feel the prayers. I used to be a hypochondriac. I would be sick for a week and I would be on Web MD diagnosing myself with some horrible illness before the accident. Now, going through something that’s so challenging, it gives you an inner strength. I know that God is with me and will get me through the difficulties. I feel as though I’m walking with such incredible strength and the peace of God in my life.
CGO: That’s so beautiful, Lauren. It seems this tragedy has really strengthened your faith and brought about an incredible peace. I read a quote by you that was “Be present before perfect.” As a closet perfectionist and a fashion blogger, there is immense pressure for women to look perfect and to be perfect. What have you learned about the importance of letting go of perfect?
LS: Honestly, it’s a lesson I’m still going through. First of all, it’s exhausting. It’s impossible as there is no perfect. I actually got this from a book called, “Be Present Over Perfect,” and it’s changed my life. The book is all about self awareness and learning to set healthy boundaries in life. We live in an overstimulated world of social media. It’s so important to disconnect and put the phone down for a day. I had a friend tell me that in those moments waiting in line at the grocery story or stopping at a red light, she would always grab her phone. She realized that she didn’t need to do that and she began using that time to pray. She said she wanted to change some “bad habits” and I love that idea. I remember our trip to Italy and there were many times that I couldn’t use my phone. I recall sitting at a stoplight and I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone the way I normally do and it was so delightful. The time away helped me to realize how important it is to disconnect and be present. I thought that this is how we should be living. It was very freeing.
CGO: I have immense compassion for the millennials who have come into a world of technology that’s 24/7. Clearly, this experience has changed you at your very core. How has this tragedy transformed the way you see life?
LS: Number one, I realized that life can change in an instant. It’s so important to live everyday as if it were your last and being fully present to life. There’s nothing more important than gratitude and showing love to yourself and others. Learning to focus on what truly matters to you is vital to a fulfilling life. A lot of people have asked me the question, “How is that you’re not mad at God?” The truth is that I never had a moment that I felt that way. I feel as though your trials in life are a gift. So many people have asked me how such bad things can happen to good people and I never felt that way about the accident. My experience has been one of positivity and the sweetest relationships coming out of this tragic accident. I have met so many incredible people. It’s been an amazing journey.
CGO: Lauren, you’re a delight and so refreshing. You’re a young woman who had a life changing event early that has forever changed you in the most beautiful way. You radiate the essence of true beauty. There are so many women out there being touched by your words of inspiration and courage. Thank you, Lauren. I can’t wait for the second part of this interview to see what’s next for you!
You can find Lauren on her blog, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy. Be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Stay tuned as well to learn about the Lauren Scruggs Kennedy Foundation that provides amputees with beautiful lifelike prosthetics and Lauren’s dry shampoo product “Stranded,” that gives to the foundation.
You can find Catherine at CatherineGraceO.com and @catherinegraceo on Twitter and Instagram. Her page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/catherinegraceo/. She is the founder of The Fierce 50 Movement to shift the perception of women over 50. To find out more, please email [email protected]
Originally published at medium.com