Disability Lifestyle Influencer Lauren “Lolo” Spencer Brings Representation to HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and Beyond.

Lolo, African American woman with tight cropped natural hair with golden swirls at top sits fashionably dressed in wheelchair

Disability advocate Lauren “Lolo” Spencer gained popularity as a YouTube personality on her “Sitting Pretty” channel. Through the lens of disability, Lauren explores universal topics that include dating, sex, relationships, travel and employment. A wheelchair user, Lauren chooses to see herself as much more than a person with a disability. Instead, Lauren shares how she lives an active life with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) as an actress, model, social media influencer and author of a new book.

Lauren leveraged her YouTube success and began modeling for Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive and Adidas. Then the door to acting opened, and she landed the role of Jocelyn on the HBO Max series, “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” and she also voices the character of “Jazzy” on the hit Disney Junior series, Firebuds. But, Lauren is not content with all of that. So, she continues to offer candid advice and guidance for reaching lifestyle goals with “Sitting Pretty,” Instagram, her website LiveSolo and book, Access Your Drive and Enjoy the Ride: A Guide to Achieving Your Dreams from a Person with a Disability (Life Fulfilling Tools for Disabled People),

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ABILITY Magazine’s Jennifer Goga had a conversation with Lauren via Zoom.

Lauren “Lolo” Spencer: Hello there!

Jennifer Goga: Hi, Lolo!

Spencer: Hi! How are you?

Goga: Good! I’m so excited to meet you.

Spencer: Yes! This is exciting!

Goga: You are a busy gal!

Lolo wearing black leather and loose fur jacket swings legs and slilletto heals over arm of wheelchair

Spencer: (laughs) Tell me about it!

Goga: I was just checking out your Instagram and your website. I am impressed with everything you’re doing.

Spencer: Oh, thank you so much!

Goga: You are representing inclusion so well.

Spencer: Thank you so much. It’s always great to be reminded that the work that I’m doing is going well. (laughs)

Goga: Yes, definitely. Tell me a little bit about yourself. I know things started to happen with your YouTube channel, “Sitting Pretty,” is that right?

Spencer: Yeah, yeah. I started my YouTube channel “Sitting Pretty” back in 2015. I wanted to create a channel that highlighted disability lifestyle. I wanted to pick those topics that are universal to everybody but then just put my spin on it, adding my perspective as a person with a disability.  

In everything I’ve done, I try to talk about universal topics, whether it’s dating, sex, and relationships, travel or employment. I have even covered the benefits of being a wheelchair user and having a disability. But, I also share my insecurities around having a disability.

I wanted to create a space for disabled people that demonstrated the lifestyle we want to live is possible. And I hope to help people who are non-disabled to understand that we are all connected, we are all human, and that interacting with disabled people doesn’t have to be intimidating or scary. And I talk about some of the things people probably should not say to people with a disability

Goga: That’s fantastic. So, what was the chronology with you getting into modeling and acting?

Spencer: It all kind of happened simultaneously. I started my YouTube channel, and as a result of its popularity, I got an opportunity to model for the first time with Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive. And then, as I started exploring modeling, that’s when the opportunity to act popped up. It all kind of happened as “Sitting Pretty” was growing.

Goga: Can you share how you landed the role on “The Sex Lives of College Girls?”

Spencer: I was already connected to my agency at the time “Sex Lives” popped up. The way I got offered to audition for the role was the traditional way: studios, productions, hit up agencies looking for particular talent. And then your agent submits you for it. That’s what happened. It was during quarantine, so all the auditions were self-tapes first. Call-backs were done on Zoom.

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Goga: How do you like being able to do the remote auditioning?

Spencer: For me, I enjoy it because I don’t have to worry about transportation. (laughs) And making sure I’m getting to an audition on time or that I’m not waiting for 45 minutes for a car to pick me up after an audition that might take all of three minutes. So for me, it’s way more convenient. I enjoy the self-tape process. And because I get to do it inside of my home, it’s a more comfortable environment. Sometimes it could be a little intimidating to be in a room full of people who are literally judging you (laughs) to see if you fit a role or not, you know?

Lolo holding a microphone smiling on stage during a presentation
Lolo at the 10th Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

Goga: I can only imagine.

Spencer: And you don’t know what they’re looking for and you don’t know if your performance is good enough, because it may be dope, but you might not have the quote-unquote “right look.” So being able to audition from home alleviates some of that anxiety and makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.

Goga: That’s great. What’s your experience been with the actual taping of “The Sex Lives of College Girls?” It’s done in LA, right?

Spencer: When we shoot “Sex Lives,” the majority of it is done here in LA. But we do have some scenes that are shot outside of the LA area, because technically Essex College, the fictitious school where the show takes place is on the East Coast. It’s supposed to be in Vermont, so when we need to do our exterior shots, we travel to a location to match that vibe.

Goga: What’s your experience been with the studio’s accessiblity?

Spencer: From my personal experience, so far, so good. They’ve been really great since the beginning. Everyone is very, very aware and mindful of making sure that I can get to the stages, to get to and from the lot, making sure food-wise that I get the meals that I want to eat. In everything they’re very, very mindful of all of my needs, making it convenient. Hair and makeup come to my dressing room, when traditionally the actors go to the hair and makeup trailer. They make sure the dressing room I have is big enough and accessible and comfortable and warm when I show up in the mornings. (laughs) That’s very important!

Goga: That’s great. Your character Jocelyn, would you say that she’s like you?

Spencer: Yeah. There are definitely some similarities between Jocelyn and me, but more so the younger version of myself and Jocelyn are very similar in many ways. Now, being in my mid-30s, I’m not as rambunctious. These days, I don’t need to be at every party that exists and entertain every boy who comes my way. I’m definitely past that stage of my life! (laughs) But the younger version of me and Jocelyn are similar in many ways.

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Goga: That’s neat. Transitioning to your book, there’s so much to cover, I’m hoping I can get it all in. I don’t know how you have time to sleep.

Spencer: Listen, I don’t know how I do it either, but I’m here and I’m excited.

Goga: I saw video clips on your Instagram about how they approached you and said, “If you ever have an idea for a book—” and you were like, “Yeah, as a matter of fact I do.” How long did it take you to write the book, and are you happy with the way it turned out?

Spencer: It took me about two years to write the book. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was a long process to remember certain experiences in my life and turn those experiences into a tangible lesson for readers to be able to take and apply to their own lives.

Stylishly dressed, Lolo shows her phone to onlookers with an excited expression

It was a challenge, but it was worth it. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. But it can be nerve-wracking ex, because people now have access to my life in a more intimate way. But I’m excited that it’s here, and I hope it’s helping readers in the way I intended.
It was a challenge, but it was worth it. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out. But it can be nerve-wracking ex, because people now have access to my life in a more intimate way. But I’m excited that it’s here, and I hope it’s helping readers in the way I intended.

Goga: Oh, good. Did they have someone who helped you write it? Or did you have the writing skills and you dove right in?

Spencer: I dove right in. I got no help.

Goga: That’s impressive.

Spencer: Yeah. It was literally all me. The only kind of help was when I had to remember some of my earlier experiences, asking my mom, “Do you remember what happened?” Other than that, every single word on every single page is from my own brain. (laughs)

Goga: That’s great! What was your goal for the book?

Spencer: I wanted to do it because throughout my career, as I was building my social media content, everyone kept asking me, “How do you do it? How did you create this for your life? What are you doing different from what everyone else is doing?” It was almost as if people were searching for some secret code of life that I found and that nobody else could access. Everyone wanted to know what the secret sauce was.

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Goga: (laughs)

Spencer: At first I found it hard to easily translate how I was able to build my career in the way that I did.  I don’t know, it just seemed simple to me. But, I realized I had to dig deeper and share more about the moments in my life that contributed to my success today. So that was the purpose of the book, to give more insight and explain that, “Hey, I didn’t find a magic lamp in some bushes and just rub it!” It was just one experience after another. Every decision I made led to the next pivotal point in my life that led to the next one. So, that was my intention for writing the book.

Goga: I understand.

Spencer: I hoped to provide information and tangible takeaways at the end of each chapter that people can apply to their own lives as well.

Goga: That’s great. So your website Live Solo how did you come up with that? When did that start and what was your goal with it?

Head shot of Lolo with tight cropped blonde curls

Spencer: Live Solo was an idea I started brainstorming during quarantine. Similar to the thought process behind the book, I realized people wanted answers on what I was doing differently than everyone else. There was a lot of interest in my fashion, the traveling, the experiences, the parties, the networking that I was doing. People were interested in my hair, my nails, how I was living independently in my own apartment. And dating was such a big, big, big topic of interest.

I thought, how do I share this part of my life and make it again something tangible for people to access. I wanted to create something that was bigger than just my life and my own experiences, because I know that this community isn’t only me, and I’m not the only one living the life I’m living at the scale I’m living it. There are people with disabilities who are dating and live on their own and are fly and fashionable. So I wanted to tap into the community.

Goga: And you have a lot of information on the website. I saw that you have guest bloggers who contribute different points of view from varying disability experiences.

Spencer: I wanted to create something that was bigger than me and my own experiences and something that is helpful for the overall disabled community and those who want to support us. That’s where Live Solo came up from. We’re continuing to build a community for young adults with disabilities who are seeking independence and self-empowerment. Live Solo is a place online where you can tap into and learn more about disability lifestyle. There are resources for wheelchairs and devices and all of the medical stuff. But there isn’t enough stuff out there to teach us how to date, how to dress, how to do our hair, all of these different things. And Live Solo is also a place to learn about each other’s disabilities from a humanity perspective. That’s what it’s all about. We’re continuing to grow it.

Goga: What a great resource. A lot of this resonates with me being legally blind. You offered some content and insights about how non-disabled people interact with people with disabilities. In my case, I use a white mobility cane to navigate in public spaces, and a lot of people do not know what the cane is all about, so I get a lot of different reactions.

Spencer: Yeah!

Goga: And even those who do know what the cane is for often think that I’m faking, because I do have some limited vision. People come up and say, “Hey, you’re not blind!?” I like the way you address situations like mine and talk candidly about the right way to interact with people with disabilities.  It’s not that hard. We’re all people. I’m happy to tell people about my condition, why I’m blind, how I do things, but sometimes it’s difficult because they don’t quite know how to approach me.

Spencer: Exactly! And that’s what I think is important about Live Solo. The writers we have on our blog are not only just wheelchair users. It’s people with varying disabilities, because we want everyone to be involved. That way if someone’s on the site and they’re learning tips on how to travel, and then the next blog that pops up might offer information about using a mobility cane as a blind person. I am so happy that Live Solo helps a broad range of people learn and understand many different perspectives. Even I am learning. I’ve read every blog that’s up there, and I’m learning about other people’s disabilities, about severe food allergies, OCD, ADHD, etc. It’s fascinating to learn how people have been able to navigate based on their particular disabilities.

It’s really a dope world to be a part of! (laughs)

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Goga: For sure, there are so many great people doing great things these days. At ABILITY Magazine, we’ve been in the disability advocacy space for more than 30 years. And from that, we have created the only fully accessible virtual career fair for people with disabilities. It’s a face-to-face platform where recruiters can meet one on one with job candidates. It’s compatible with screen readers and we also offer live ASL interpreters if someone is hard of hearing or deaf. It’s something we are  so excited about. You have the ear of young people, and I would love for you to tell them that it’s out there, among other things. There are so many great resources.

abilityEntertainment is our newest project. It’s part of a whole suite of services we provide for actors and performers and writers and producers who have a disability. We are helping them get access to the entertainment industry. I wasn’t sure if you had a chance to look at the site?

Lolo modeling on a futuristic looking electric wheelchair

Spencer: I did! I did have a few moments to be able to quickly scroll through and see what you guys were doing. It definitely looked really, really dope. It looks like an amazing resource. I think there’s definitely some synergy between Live Solo and abilityE to maybe do a future collaboration and figure out how we can work together to make something happen. I’m definitely open to something like that.

Goga: That’d be great. We have the same goals of giving people information and access to various resources.

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely!

Goga: That’s great. And that’s how Sammi Haney was discovered for the voice role of “Piper” in “Firebuds.”

Spencer: Oh, really?

Goga: Yeah. I know you voice the character of “Jazzy” on the show, and Sammi voices your character’s talking wheelchair, “Piper,” right?  Sammi’s parents put her profile on the abilityE website. Disney contacted us during COVID looking for a young actress who used a wheelchair. Our abilityE team was able to provide Disney with several actresses who met their casting profile. Sammi was one of them, and of course she did the rest with her audition. But Disney found Sammi through abilityE.

Spencer: I love that! I love Sammi, too. I haven’t gotten a chance to meet her in person, but I’ve been following her career ever since she was on “Raising Dion,” and we follow each other on social media.

Goga: I guess that makes sense you two have not met in person. Since voiceover work is done individually—you’re not in the same room or anything.

Spencer: Oh, no, we’re definitely not! (laughs)

Goga: Sammi said she wants to meet you in person. But it’s cool you two can connect on social media at least.

Spencer: Yeah, she’s a sweetheart. She’s so cute. I just love her

Goga: Well, it sure was fun talking to you, Lolo!

Spencer: Oh, you made it easy with great questions!

Goga: It was wonderful chatting with you. Hopefully we’ll come up with a way abilityE and Live Solo can work together to help even more people.

Spencer: I would love that.

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