By Shannon Lane @shannonroselane

A DISABLED WOMAN in New York City will launch an all-inclusive shoe company after struggling to find stylish shoes that fit her size four feet

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Videographer / director: Johnny Frohman
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus

 

Lauren Ruotolo, 43, has created ‘Unstoppable’, a company that advocates for those unable to find heels in sizes 3-13.

Having grown up with McCune-Albright Syndrome – a very rare, genetic disease that affects the skin, bone and endocrine system – Lauren, who is 4 ft 2 inches, understands the necessity for inclusive fashion.

She told Barcroft TV: “I became a confident woman at a young age and that was because I didn’t have a choice.”

She added: “I want to be stylish, I want to wear shoes and I decided that if I make them, they will come.”

When Lauren had been just nine months old, she started her menstrual period – much to the shock of her parents.

She then suffered from seizures and broke her femur bone, before finally being diagnosed with McCune-Albright Syndrome at 18 months old.

“The doctors told me I may end up in a wheelchair, I made a decision with my physical therapist that I’d always be vertical because walking is freedom,” she said.

This determination has enabled Lauren to move around with the use of crutches.

However, there is a challenge with having to constantly adapt to different environments.

“My whole life is a jungle gym – I’m always climbing or jumping to get something because I can never reach everything,” she explained.

Naturally, those close to Lauren frequently check up on her.

“Everybody tells me to be careful all the time – I could be two years old or 42 and someone in my life will tell me to be careful,” she added.

Lauren, who rarely leaves the house without red lipstick on, found her love of style in college.

“I started wearing stilettos in college – I could never find shoes and it became this ‘Where’s Waldo’ of shoes for me.”

When Lauren found a pair of heels that fit her size in a local department store, it changed everything.

“I thought, ‘I’m in heaven!’, and I suddenly became known as the girl in school with stilettos.”

This marked the beginning of advocacy for Lauren, as she realised that if she wanted to help others find shoes, she’d have to create them.

“I started to adapt fashion to my body and my feet – if I wanted a certain dress that wasn’t available at the store, I thought I’m going to make to make it then.

“Advocacy starts with one person – so I am beginning a shoe line. I believe in inclusivity and diversity for all.”

Although Lauren still receives unwelcome comments from strangers, she focuses her energy on making others feel good and publicly speaks to companies on including people with disabilities in their workforce.

“Living in Manhattan, you never know what people are going to say to you – I still easily get one or two crazy comments a day.

“But wearing heels makes me feel more confident – you feel taller and you stand taller.”

And to make others feel as good as she does is the most fulfilling part.

“I’m honoured to see people really smile when they put on the shoes and feel great.

“It’s exciting to see other people walk in these shoes and create their own story,” she added.