The stage gave her a platform to grow up strong.
Before she was in pre-school, Lauren was in dance school at Kids n’ Company, a studio owned at the time by her aunt, Nan Cavalier and where her cousin, Robin Cavalier Chiste, was also an instructor. She took every type of dance class offered there for fifteen years.
“Aunt Nan was my role model and Robin helped me bring out my artistic talents. They were very positive to me and always provided that safe environment to express myself freely, without judgement,” she said.
Now Lauren is doing the same for others in the many roles she plays. She’s a wife, mother, make-up artist, Hip-Hop teacher, dance coach, hospital case worker, and assistant high school musical choreographer – a venue she knows well from her own experience.
She commented, “What I enjoy most about working with the Connellsville Area High School musicals, is teaching the kids to express themselves in a different way than they might not be comfortable doing. If they haven’t been on stage before, they can feel vulnerable – afraid they’ll be judged.
It’s such a transformation to see from when they come in with a lack of confidence to being so pumped after they get that first applause. They come back stage feeling so good about themselves.”
A Palette of Possibilities
The same thing happens under the bright lights of her airbrush make-up business, BelViso. Lauren offers make up artistry services on-location and at Excursions Salon in Connellsville where she also performs facials and spray tanning.
Initially, they may be afraid, but I make girls and women feel comfortable as we talk about their best features to enhance. Maybe it’s their high cheek bones or eyes. We talk about the colors they like and pick out a palette. It’s a transforming moment when they look in the mirror and with a smile say, ‘Oh my gosh!’” she said.
Lauren’s passion to meet people where they are and to be transformational has become her vocation. Four years ago, at the age of 28, she went back to school, attending California University of Pennsylvania and majored in psychology.
At the time, she was divorced and working as an esthetician in the spa of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. With lots of support from her mother and father, Lauren was able to meet the demands of college, which included a thirty minute commute three days a week to classes and hours of studying and homework.
What kept her going for the next four years? Lauren said she had to prove to herself, to her kids, and to her classmates, who were ten years younger, that she could do it and they could too.
It was a lesson they wouldn’t soon forget.
Learning from Each Other
She commented, “Ethan, age nine, and Sophia, age seven, were getting a little old for daycare, so on days they didn’t have school, I brought them with me to class. I always had permission ahead of time from the professor and made sure that the material they’d be exposed to was appropriate before taking them.
Ethan observed while Sophia raised her hand and ask the professors questions. They were on her level, but they were good questions!
In class discussions, I was able to use life experience as examples to pull from. Sometimes for presentations, I used song and dance. My classmates always laughed at me. I think they were shocked that I didn’t care what others thought.
At the same time, through their techie world, they taught me. They exposed me to how they interact and how they do not. Because they were so used to being on their phones and screens, they were more introverted. Nobody wanted to get up to speak and they stuck to their note cards when they did have to do so.
It seems that there were times that, if I presented first, then they were not afraid to show their own personalities when it was their turn. The fear was dissolved.”
Last December, at the age of 32, Lauren graduated with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She’s now employed as a hospital caseworker, serving mostly geriatric patients at Highlands Hospital’s medical surgical unit while continuing to do all the things that also enable her to bring out the best in others.
So what does she do to keep herself strong?
“No matter what else I do in a day, I make sure to do thirty minutes of low-impact exercise like walking, biking or dance fitness classes. For me, exercise is a toxin release and a stress reliever.”
Her greatest source of strength, though, she said, is her Catholic faith. “This is the foundation that everything in my life is built upon. When I was eleven years old and my Grandma Ruggieri was sick, my Uncle Paul and Aunt Marie went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina to pray for her.
When they returned, Uncle Paul talked about the miracles taking place and the state of grace that he experienced. His energy was so good and I could feel it. That’s when I felt, for the first time, the presence of God in my life and He has stayed in my heart. It has given me joy in times of sadness and instilled hope.”
Building a New Life
Recently, Lauren was remarried. She and her husband, Josh, a contractor, are in the process of constructing a barn on their property. “He is “Bob the Builder” and he’s a good teacher. I’m building my home from the ground up with my husband and that’s been a bonding experience.
Josh never holds me back from learning and doing. I’ve ordered wood and picked it up at the lumber yard. I’ve built steps and a wooden fence, poured concrete, split logs, used a hand saw to cut wood, stapled planks, painted, dug holes, driven a stake body truck and operated a Bobcat loader.
This is a self-esteem booster. I’m so much more confident in myself. And I’m not afraid,” she said.
“We may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside.“