As a best-selling author and fitness guru, Lauren Drain is someone who will be familiar to plenty out there but her story nevertheless deserves a revisit.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Lauren grew up Kansas with her father Steve and enjoyed a relatively ordinary life up until the age of 16.
But everything changed the day Steve encountered the Westboro Baptist Church.
To the uninitiated the Westboro Baptist Church are a notorious “religious” hate group that has become infamous for its hate speech against LGBT, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim people.
They have also been known to hit out at American soldiers and politicians, regularly attending military funerals to protest and remind mourners that those who have just passed are going to hell.
With this in mind, Steve decided to put together a documentary looking at the inner workings of the church and its followers.
It didn’t take long for Lauren’s father to fall under the spell of the church though.
“My father has never been really religious or anything like that. But he had spent a lot of time in college searching for some sort of ultimate truth,” Drain later explained in an interview with Advocate.com
“At the time, he was also looking for work, so it was the whole, you know, “Could I make a documentary on this weird subculture?” And on top of that, he was raising a teenage daughter, followed by another teenage daughter.
“So I don’t know if it was just all a combination of everything at the time, that kind of compelled [him] to thinking, ‘Well, this is a controlled environment, I could take advantage of this for myself and for my family.’”
Having become a fervent convert, Steve moved his family into the Westboro Baptist Church.
Lauren, though sceptical at first, found the girls her age to be intelligent, informed and friendly and soon set about learning and preaching the troubled ways of the movement.
For the next seven years, Drain spent time on the picket lines with the Church’s infamous protestors, preaching the hate that has become so synonymous with Westboro.
However, during high school Lauren began to change.
Increasingly aware of the church’s oppressive and bizarre methods, things came to a head after her family discovered she had been chatting to a boy from Connecticut online.
A meeting was called to discuss her fate with Steve among those calling for her to be excommunicated.
“There is no hope,” her father said at the meeting. “I am done with her!”
Banished from the church with no contact from her parents, two sisters and brother, Drain has made new life for herself.
Author of the New York Times bestseller Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church, Drain has also turned her back on the anti-LGBT views that govern the church, joining the NOH8 Campaign in 2013.
And when she is not busy writing or campaigning, Lauren can be found showcasing her ample abs and fitness routines on Instagram.
With over two million followers accrued already, Drain has emerged as a fitness sex symbol to rival the likes of Ronda Rousey.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for a woman who has endured quite the ride so far in life – something tells us there could be more to come from this particular story too. Watch this space.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.