- Alumni Spotlight
"To Arrive Where We Started"
The mountains surrounding Leysin have instilled a deep love of the environment within many students passing through LAS. Likewise the school’s location in Europe has opened the eyes of many students to the incredible cultural diversity this continent has to offer. Lauren Rae Levy S ’99 attended LAS Summer in Switzerland in 1998 and 1999 and attests that her summer camp experience “showed me a different world.”
Lauren was born in New Jersey, USA and spent much of her young life in the arts in New York, and around Broadway. She auditioned for a musical to attend LAS Summer in Switzerland and ended up winning the chance to spend part of her summers in Leysin working with the theater program. She played Lucy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and the following year played Jesus in “Godspell” and El Gallo in “The Fantasticks.” Her first international casting, with a group of international students, was “unique, challenging, and one of her favourite memories on stage.”
Beyond Lauren’s on stage experiences, two of the most important things she took with her when she left Leysin were a strong mastery of French and a love of the outdoors. These two aspects have directly impacted her current life in Malibu, California, USA.
Shortly after completing a double major in music and theater, with a minor in French at the Frost School of Music in Miami, Lauren went back to the Big Apple. Lauren applied to work with a high end Parisian fashion designer opening a store in New York. In an interview to work at Catherine Malandrino with none other than Catherine herself and her husband, Lauren politely listened as Catherine and her husband spoke French in between questions. As the interview was being finished Lauren piped up with her final question: “Avez-vous d’autres questions?” Catherine and her husband were happily surprised to find out that this young candidate spoke French! Lauren was offered the job and was the youngest person to be a manager for the company. She went on to launch a new store location for Catherine which was a huge success, proving that if you give young people the reigns, and a chance, they can often see new ways to solve problems. Lauren is still a fashion consultant and entrepreneur today. Knowing another language is powerful, and through her dedication and a little help from LAS Summer in Swizerland, she used it to begin a career.
After arriving back from a short stint in Turkey working in fashion, Lauren was ready to try something completely different and moved to Malibu. By adjusting her priorities Lauren started to focus on balancing her professional and personal life. While on a hike she was approached by a “dude from Poland” who asked her if she wanted to learn how to rappel. With a bit of hesitation she said “why not” and so began her voyage into the vertical world. Lauren is one of the few individuals in California who regularly Aussie rappels, meaning when she rappels down a mountain she does it facing forward. She also became a strong rock climber which 50,000 of her followers on Instagram can attest to when she uploads terrifying and somehow incredibly fashionable climbing photographs. LAS Summer in Switzerland is where her love of the outdoors began and her move to California is where it was rekindled.
Lauren currently has her hands full with a wide variety of different occupations and passions. She is a style expert on TV working with Extra, QVC, and Inside Edition; she works in marketing and branding for her family-owned cookware company, Gotham Steel; she is a social media influencer and fashion stylist whose aim is to “give people confidence;” on top of all of this she is set to be married to celebrity chef Marcel Vigneron in November. Congratulations from LAS!
Lauren came back to LAS summer to speak to our students at the 70th anniversary celebration, but before she returned we decided to ask her a few questions:
Q&A with Lauren
A: What are you most looking forward to with your upcoming visit back to LAS summer?
L: Showing my fiancé the place that changed my life! I haven’t been there since 1999, when I was 16, so it has certainly been a while. That being said, the memories I made in Leysin left such an imprint on my heart, it still feels like it happened yesterday. Also I’m super stoked about getting a few hours of rock climbing in! I’ve become an avid climber over the last 4 years and can’t wait to get on some sport routes while I’m over there.
A: Have you stayed connected with your fellow LAS summer alumni? If yes, who would be most jealous you are coming back for a visit?
L: Yes! Some of them are even coming to my wedding in November! I think that all my friends would be jealous that I am returning to such an amazing place. If someone was going this week, I’d be jealous and I’m coming so soon! I’m pretty sure my friends in the States and Canada would be the most jealous though. It’s a longer trip, so it’s not something we can do from here as often.
A: There are specialists and generalists—you seem to fall under the generalist category with your life and work experience. Why do you think that is an advantage? How would you impress the importance of this onto young campers at LAS summer?
L: As someone who gets bored super easily, it has always been important to keep things moving and shaking! It’s been advantageous to be well rounded, as it has led to many more opportunities than I would have had if I was only strong in one area—opportunities to travel, meet incredible folks all over the world, and, most of all, to grow as a human being. I feel that we grow the most as individuals when we are out of our comfort zones. People taking a chance on me in my career because they saw how well rounded I was has led to so many incredible life-changing events for me and made me the person I’m proud to be today.
A: You picked up and moved to Turkey to continue your career in the fashion world. How did LAS Summer in Switzerland prepare you for this drastic life change?
L: Moving to Switzerland alone at age 15 was the first time I was really out of my comfort zone for a long period of time. I became fluent in French from being there as a result of Conversational French Class I took, and learned just how much the locals respect Americans (especially) when they try to adjust to another culture. This was the first time I was meeting folks from all over the world that were my age and had similar interests! Moving to Istanbul was a big move. I had never been to Turkey, only knew my investor, and didn’t speak the language. But I tried my best to learn, adjust to the culture there, and continue to grow. The people around me noticed this and respected me as a result. Sure there were days that were harder than others, but I loved the challenge—it was a natural high. Learning that I could build my name and earn the respect of people who had no clue who I was prior to moving there was really something. They admired my courage, my fearlessness when it came to speaking up, and my ability to network outside of the NYC bubble. After one month in Turkey, I had been published in the second most circulated paper in the country (Radikal), People Style Watch Turkey, and ELLE Turkey. It was beyond rewarding for me to see that I could make a name for myself and build something from scratch, solely by being me.
A: Finally, what will your message be when you speak to a group of campers coming from around 60 different countries around the world?
L: Live a life of YES. Say YES to all the opportunities that present themselves to you organically through your journey of life that make sense to who you are, as you never know when or if they will come around again. Keep in touch with the people who have left imprints on your heart and have changed you for the better. It is so important to surround yourself with positivity and people who believe in you. Always wear your confidence and be true to who you are. The energy we put out into the world is what attracts the people around us and invites opportunities our way. Lastly, always keep an open mind. While it is so important to stay true to who you are, it’s also important to listen to the advice of others and pick and choose from that, what works for you. Allow yourself to grow and you will.
- Malibu, California, USA
- Panorama 2019