Despite psoriasis, Lauren Wanger seeks life in the spotlight
Whether on stage or in front of millions of television viewers, teacher/beauty queen/songwriter Lauren Wanger refuses to let psoriasis get in the way of living life.
"There's definitely times when I feel depressed, and I think that's normal," says Wanger, 28, who has had plaque psoriasis since age 15. Her condition didn't stop her from pursuing interests that keep her in the public eye, including competing in beauty pageants. A year ago, she appeared on ABC-TV's "The Bachelor" as one of the reality show's contenders vying for Jason Mesnick's heart.
"I just think it's important to feel hopeful and not let psoriasis control your life, not let it stand in your way," says Wanger, a seventh-grade teacher in Boca Raton, Fla., and an aspiring singer-songwriter. (She wrote and performed the song, "Famous" for the soundtrack of the 2006 movie, "The Legend of Tillamook's Gold.")
Wanger considers her psoriasis moderate and has tried numerous treatments through the years. When topical ointments and creams failed, she turned to steroid injections to help control the patches on her arms and legs. Some stubborn spots remain. "I still have so many little patches all over my legs," says Wanger, who also battles scalp psoriasis.
Despite flares throughout her 20s, she decided to compete in beauty pageants. In 2004, she won the crown in her first pageant, Mrs. New York America, and went on to place fourth runner-up in the nationally televised Mrs. America pageant. (Wanger was married at the time.)
After taking a few years off to finish her master's degree in education, Wanger decided to compete again, this time in the Ms. Florida United States pageant. She won that title and went on to compete in the national pageant in Las Vegas, where she was crowned Ms. United States 2007.
Wanger, who used makeup to cover her psoriasis, enjoys the thrill of competing. She especially relishes the opportunity to speak with judges. "I'm not very graceful on stage—it's the interview, when I speak with the judges, that wins them over."
Wanger talked with the judges about her passion for community service and youth activism and didn't shy away from speaking about having psoriasis.
"It was a beauty pageant and (psoriasis) is not necessarily a beautiful word to bring up, but I think it's a good thing to let people know you have this flaw and you're a better role model because of it," she says.
Wanger felt the same during her "Bachelor" appearance. Just before taping began, her dermatologist administered a steroid injection to help clear her skin. Even so, patches remained on her arms and legs throughout the weeks she remained a contestant.
"People asked me about it," she recalls. In fact, one day during filming, when her skin was especially red and angry, Mesnick noticed and asked her about the spots. Wanger says she told him simply, "You know, I'm not a perfect creature. I have flaws."
While she didn't make a connection with Mesnick—Wanger says filming the show was actually somewhat stressful and likely contributed to her psoriasis flaring—she now has much to be excited about. She's engaged to be married to her boyfriend Ignacio Hernandez and the couple is expecting a child this spring. They also recently purchased their first house.
Although her child could also have psoriasis, Wanger says she doesn't worry too much about it. "I know that it doesn't have to limit your potential," she says.