Lauren Bedford Russell Part 2
The second half of my chat with Lauren Bedford Russell, we talk business, activism about her MS diagnosis and how you can get involved.
Mariella: Now there’s something really interesting about you that I was researching. You’re a businesswoman, of course you were on reality TV etc, but essentially you’re a business woman that’s done something really interesting. You’ve merged art and jewellery with activism and equality, through your equality and rock the vote bracelets, where did that idea come from?
Lauren: I started the equality bracelets when I launched my line back before the show, before anything. It’s my favourite thing that I do. It really started with an idea that we don’t have to just set up a business that just provides fine jewellery, let’s make a difference and do something that gives back.
So in that way giving 15% or 20% to each charity for each bracelet that I have, it really sets us apart and does something good instead of just being just another jewellery company.
Mariella: Of course, your bracelets are awesome, I actually don’t wear any jewellery, just because I’m too fiddly and it tends to fall off, but I was having a look at your website and I was like ‘oh I would wear that’.
So if you do get a hundred orders later on, it’s just me, I hope not to take your site down!
You also have quite a few celebrities actually rocking your jewellery…
Lauren: Yeah, I’ve been really actually blessed to have a lot of supporters, especially, of the bracelets and some of the jewellery has been on celebrities and editorial, fashion magazines. I have some fans in that area which I love to see. I’m so limited on time actually at home, but once I get back I plan on extending that even more.
Mariella: Well that will be good to see. What’s your actual role in the business, do you design or do you do everything, or?
Lauren: Yeah, I’ve done everything, I started with designing the line and after I’d line designed or once I was maybe halfway through designing the line, I started building the business, so I’ve kind of done everything and it was quite a feat, but all worth it, for sure.
Mariella: Do you find that being openly gay has that helped your business, or detracted from it, does it matter still, what do you think?
Lauren: Well, I think that people really they have kind of made it seem that it’s just a gay jewellery line, but it’s not. It’s actually for men and women, gay, straight.
A lot of my straight friends and clients wear the equality bracelet to support for the gay cause, that’s what the actually charity is that the bracelet is related to, so I think it’s supposed to be for everyone and I definitely want to make that clear.
Mariella: Yeah, definitely. Do you think being openly gay sometimes tends to pigeonhole you in that just playing in the gay space? ‘Cos I’ve never thought of jewellery being gay or straight, it’s just jewellery!
Lauren: No, I haven’t either, but I think especially since the show, it definitely pigeon holes, but you know I think as long as I try to get it out there in other places and make sure it’s known as not just a gay orientated jewellery line, people will start to understand that, I guess.
Mariella: Yeah, of course. Speaking about challenges, now it’s challenging enough opening up a business in itself, but you also had a personal and health challenge recently, recently at 31, you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, what was receiving that diagnosis like?
Lauren: Oh it was shocking, because it just all happened one day, it was in July too, it was kind of in the middle of everything happening and it was my eye lost vision and I was thinking I’ve got to go get my lasik corrected, because sometimes you have to go back in and get it fixed, but the more I started losing sight the more I was like ‘oh my gosh’ what if it’s a brain tumour or something like that.
So I was relieved I didn’t have anything worse, but I definitely was shocked and had so much to learn when it came to multiple sclerosis, it was just okay, well what does this mean for me and I can’t believe this is happening at my age, you know.
Mariella: Yeah, of course. But that’s actually quite a normal thing according to statistics that it actually happens to mostly women between the ages of twenty and forty.
Lauren: Yeah, I’m a prime candidate for the disease, my age and my sex, because it happens more with women, but yeah, so that’s why I really want to be so public with it. So other women that maybe get a strange symptom like I had or something like that could, maybe not just brush it off, maybe I could help people to actually go visit their doctor.
Mariella: Yeah, exactly right. Did you have any symptoms? I know that you lost vision in one of your eyes, but did you have any symptoms prior to that?
Lauren: No, nothing prior, I really didn’t have anything else that was signalling anything was wrong, it all happened one day and in the process of two or three days I got an MRI and was diagnosed, it all happened really fast.
Mariella: Yeah, wow, that’s quite scary. But you’re actually really quite positive about it and in fact I was watching a lot of videos on MS, cos you’re right, this is something we don’t know a lot about and I certainly put my hand up, I’m guilty of it as well and I went in and looked up quite a few videos and did a bit of research and a lot of the things MS sufferers say is that you just have to stay positive.
Lauren: Right, that’s exactly it. You have to just, it’s really the most important thing and it really is my focus, there’s no sense in feeling sorry for yourself or just digging yourself in a hole and laying down and suffering. Whereas I might not have anything crazy going on right now as far as symptoms, there’s a lot of scary thoughts that definitely cross my mind, but I stay positive. It’s amazing what a positive mind can do, so you just have to.
Mariella: It just opens up a whole world of opportunity doesn’t it?
Lauren: Right, exactly.
Mariella: And speaking of opportunity and staying positive, you actually have designed a positivity bracelet.
Lauren: Yeah, I actually, one of the first things I wanted to do in that first couple of months was I thought of doing a bracelet to support MS, so the positivity bracelet donates 15% to the MS Society, so everyone get out there and get informed, there’s so much information online, the experience is different for everyone, every single person has a different experience of the disease it’s not just one route for everyone, but it’s important to know what the possibilities are and what the warning signs, so get out there and get informed.
Mariella: Definitely. The figures are actually quite staggering; there are 2.5 million people that have MS worldwide. That is a lot of people and we still don’t know enough about the disease, to anyone listening jump on board and find out about the disease.
Lauren: Yeah, I plan on actually working on more bracelets, I heard from other people that have Polio, or all these other things coming at me that want help on their cause so trying to come out with 2 or 3 a year.
Mariella: Oh brilliant, as if you’re not busy enough, just keep the bracelets coming.
Lauren: Right, but no, I think that’s my priority and I’ll get it done, it’s definitely my mission now.
Mariella: Definitely, I have no doubt that you’ll get it done. It really is such a pleasure to talk to you; you’re such a breath of fresh air cos usually when people receive a diagnosis of any sort, it is a dark place for a while, but I think you’ve probably jumped back and I think you’re gonna change the world and certainly with a bracelet, you know who would have funk.
Lauren: Yeah, I know, it’s crazy for me, it’s such a small thing but it’s also pretty large, when I see pictures from around the world of people wearing the bracelets, it really is the most amazing thing I could ever imagine. I couldn’t have imagined that I could have even done that a couple of years ago.
Mariella: Wow, there’s a positive affirmation there, it’s nice to see it, isn’t it?
Lauren: Yeah, it’s amazing, amazing and that makes me very happy, so thanks everyone who has been supporting, yeah, it’s just, it’s been really amazing.
Mariella: That’s awesome. In fact you actually jumped the gun, I was gonna say ‘I’m gonna wrap it up with this question for all your Twitter followers, cos you do have quite a few, what piece of advice would you give to them?’
Lauren: Any advice?
Mariella: Any advice, just anything.
Lauren: Any advice, I would say if there’s one thing I could tell everyone, I would say my favourite motto is sort of follow your gut, I think in any position you’re in life and whatever age you are, whatever is going, is happening in your life, follow your gut and follow your heart and it won’t ever lead you the wrong way, I think it’s really, really important and I learned that lesson a while ago and I definitely live by it.
Mariella: And your gut has led you to a really good place I think and you know what, it’s so funny you say that cos that is actually my motto as well.
Lauren: Oh really?
Mariella: Yeah, I mean for everything, it’s not just for instinct and stuff, but I also follow my gut when it comes to lunch and breakfast.
Lauren: Yeah me too, Kiyomi will tell you that.
Mariella: We were just talking about that before actually, I put a tweet out to a few of my friends on Twitter and I said ‘right Twitter, I need you Melbourne followers to tell me where we should eat’ So I’ve got a whole bunch of lists I’m gonna share with you later.
Lauren: Oh yes, thank you.
Mariella: I hope not to lead you astray, I’m gonna let you follow my gut.
Mariella: That is brilliant advice, absolutely, follow your gut always and I think you can’t go wrong.
Absolute pleasure Lauren, thank you for taking the time, I know it’s very late in Australia.
Lauren: No it’s fine, we’re fine, thank you so much for the talk and I’ll tell your home town hello for you.
Mariella: Please do, say hello to my home town.
Lauren: I’m so excited to be here and it’s been lovely to speak to you.
Mariella: Likewise and I’ll keep in touch for sure and I’ll send you a photo of me rocking the bracelet
Mariella: And you know what, that’s actually gonna be quite a monumental thing, because I literally don’t wear any jewellery.
Lauren: Oh that’s amazing, well if I can get you to wear it one day of the week, them I’m happy.
Mariella: Mission accomplished. Lauren you’re a legend, good to speak to you.
Lauren: Ok, so nice to speak to you too and we’ll talk soon on Twitter.
Mariella: We’ll talk on Twitter and I’ll send you that link.
Lauren: Ok, great.