It was 2006 when I first met Lauryn McRoyal. Like most teenagers, we were rebelling. My cousin took me to get a belly piercing against my mother’s wishes after school. As I sat in the basement of the tattoo artists’ home, I became extremely nervous. My cousin refused to hold my hand through the process, but a complete stranger agreed to comfort me through the process. We have been friends every since.

A little over one year later on the eve of June 30th, 2007, most of the teenagers from the south suburbs of Chicago attended a party, myself included. It was a great time, everyone got along, and everyone had fun. Having what I believed was an overprotective mother called for me to leave the party early. When I woke up the next morning I received heart-breaking news, a drunk driver killed Lauryn’s older brother, Mario McRoyal. Mario was leaving the party we had all attended. It was then when I first saw this woman’s strength.

Lauryn grew up as the only girl and the youngest of four. Mario was the closest to her age. Her mother, Kathryn Royster, endured the abuse of Lauryn’s drug addicted father until one day she had enough. She took her four kids and sought after a new healthy life. Before her own interaction with an abusive spouse, Kathryn, grew up in a home with an abusive father. Like most stories of abuse are told, Lauryn has dealt with abuse herself.

After Mario passed, Lauryn moved to Carbondale with her older brother, finished high school and enrolled at Southern Illinois University. Always having had a passion for and dream of modeling, Lauryn got involved with modeling organizations on campus. Shortly after she began college she became pregnant by Mario’s best friend, whom she had been dating for a couple years. At 19 years old and pregnant, Lauryn returned home to be with her mother. After giving birth to Royal Kathryn Mariona Harris, Lauryn returned to Carbondale, Illinois to continue her education. She then decided being in Chicago with her mother was the best environment for she and Royal. Upon returning to Chicago, she began pursuing modeling. She attended a modeling open call event for Discovery stores and was chosen out of all of the girls who attended the event. The ball has been rolling every since.

A background of abuse, loss of a sibling, teenage pregnancy, leaving college prematurely: a story of failure right? Incorrect. In 2007 after Mario passed away, Lauryn and her siblings established a clothing line in his honor, FIANO RIO. FIANO RIO is an acronym for Failure Is Not An Option when You’re Real Initiative Oriented. The clothing line has been restructured to simply, RIO Clothing. It is designed for “go-getters” and people striving to reach their goals. In addition, Lauryn and her mother established Because I’m a Lady Ministries. The mission is to build beauty from the inside out. When explaining the purpose of Because I’m a lady she stated it was created “to help women to find their true self worth and help them to see that they are beautiful without all the make up, without whatever you think makes you attractive on the outside. It’s not about what’s on the outside, but what is on the inside.” Mother, Model, Minister: Lauryn has taken situation after situation that should have brought her failure and created success. She is literally unstoppable. Lauryn is truly a woman exceeding.

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