Lalia Susini: Overcoming a Traumatic Injury, Creating a Fashion Line, and Returning to TV
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Let’s start off and talk about your career as a model and an actress. Most currently you’re on ABC’s Station 19, but how did you get your start and what do you enjoy most about doing it?
Lalia Susini: So I got my start when I was probably five or six, because my older brother, Max, who, he started acting a little before me. And I’d always have to go with him to those auditions and sit in the waiting room with him. And when I did that, I told my mom, I was like, “I want to do this. I want to try this. I want to do this.” And then my first commercial I got with him, actually. It was for Burger King, I’m pretty sure. And it was so much fun and I just knew from there, I loved it and I just love acting.
RM: I understand pre-pandemic, you had a passion for fashion and decided to start a clothing line. So talk to me about LATE and then how this idea became your actual company.
LS: Yeah, so it was in the summer. When COVID first started, it was summertime and me and my best friend, Cate, we were so bored and we had nothing to do. And I remember we were on a FaceTime call or something and we were just talking about how we both wanted to be fashion designers when we grow up though. And I was like, “Wait, why don’t we just do it now?” And then we started to bring this idea to life and then slowly, slowly it started happening. But then I was in an accident. So we took a pause on this clothing line.
And then after we started doing it and a lot of our, now our proceeds go to Children’s Hospital and we can make specially designed clothes. Our clothes are for everybody. But let’s say Children’s, they need a sick… because I had a pic line when I was in the hospital. And I had a cast on my arm for therapy to make me use my left arm. And if a kid has one of those, let’s say, they can’t wear a normal t-shirt or a normal sweatshirt or somebody like that, we can make a specially design clothing piece for them.
RM: I love that you just had the attitude of wait, why are we waiting until we’re older? Let’s seize the day now and just launch it! And like you mentioned, it wasn’t a straight road to your launch in Spring. Last October, you had an accident. Can you share a little bit about what happened and what that looked like?
LS: Yeah, so it was on October 22nd and I was in between fifth and sixth period of school. And I had a five minute break and I had already had lunch and I was bored. So I decided to go outside with my grandpa on the swing. And so it was in the ceiling by this nail with a circle at the end of it. I’m not sure what it’s called, but I was swinging on it, back and forth. And my Grandpa’s pushing me. So I swung one time and I was perfectly fine. And then I swung another time. And when I swung that time the thing fell out of the ceiling and it went into the back of my head, right there. I have a cast on for therapy actually right now. But it went to right to the top of my head, right here. And then, I fell and I had a stroke. And then a few minutes later, that’s when the firefighters and the paramedics showed up to the scene.
RM: That must have been so traumatic and emotional. And I know you spent months in the hospital and you even had to learn to re-walk again. But surprisingly you spent less time than originally expected that would take. What gave you hope during this time? How did you stay positive on this road to recovery?
LS: Well, in my mind, it was like, “I can’t go back in time. It is what it is and I have to just go like, “This is my new reality.” I know I wanted to learn how to walk and I knew I wanted to learn how to use my hand again. I wanted to go home and I wanted to see my friends and I wanted to be out of the hospital. And I wanted to just get everything over with.
RM: You showed your cast there. So what does your current rehab regime look like?
LS: So I do OT and PT at Children’s Hospital and usually in OT, we work on putting my hair back and tying my shoes, stuff that I would do on a normal daily basis. I learned so much to do with my left hand. I feel I have most of, a lot of things back in my hand, except for my fine motor skills. And my foot right now, my leg, I’m learning how to re-run again, which was one of my really big goals because I want to get back to all my sports, like soccer, BMX, track.
RM: I love that you mentioned earlier about your clothing items, how some of the line gives back to Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, and even some of the details in the way you designed the clothes, takes into account patients. But you even named some of your clothing after significant individuals that you met along the way. Talk to me about how that idea came out and why you picked some of them.
LS: They helped me so much and they were at the right place in my life. They’re at the right place at the right time. And so they’re really important to me. And they were super special and they made me really happy. So I decided to name them after… but Jose Price, he was a paramedic that showed up first, when I first had my accident. He, I loved him so much. I love, I still do. We still go visit him all the time. He’s five minutes away. He’s at Station 97. So we go in and see him a lot. Bring donuts. I mean, just talking, he’s just so nice. And he was just so comforting during the accident.
Chaplain George, when we were at Children’s, my mom told me this story. He was on the end of his shift. And we were just walking. And my mom was right beside me, running beside me. And he was just walking out. My mom says that she felt she knew him even though they didn’t know each other. My mom just felt a special connection between them. And so my mom, he then followed my mom because he knew something was wrong. So he started following my mom and then he prayed over me when I was about to get surgery. And he came to my room to make prayers and he was super, super sweet.
RM: The power of prayer at work is great. Speaking of faith, how has that changed or shifted or solidified during this process?
LS: So many people have helped me so much. And it’s just so crazy what people can impact on your life. And these people have changed my life and I just, I love them.
RM:. It might not make sense in the middle of it, but when you can, fortunately, take that step back and look, the fabric and the tapestry that’s been weaved just so special and so fun. And the exciting thing is that you returned the filming on Station 19. So what did it feel like to be back and how did your coworkers and crew react?
LS: I know when I got back, there was a lot of tears and crying and it was just, it was emotional. It was a happy emotional. When I got back, everyone was hugging me and they were so happy. And everyone, it was just, It was just this feeling of joy and happiness and excitement and I was just, I was so happy.
RM: You know, one of the things that I think that’s so powerful about your story is that you’re sharing it. We, and others may not have the exact same accident that you had, but we all have something in our life that’s traumatic or that’s a setback or that at the time feels impossible. Yet we push through. Good can be had. What advice would you give to others having walked through something like this, about resilience or persistency?
LS: So I remember in my hospital room there was a little quote that said… I don’t remember exactly… But it was something like “It’s fun sometimes to face the impossible.” And my mom, after she showed me that. I was like, “It’s not, it’s not.” And then my mom took a picture of me because she then showed me later on. She was like, “It is, it is fun.” Because I remember thinking, “How am I going to do this? This is terrible. And I don’t know what I’m going to do.” And then I remembered, “This is my reality and I have to keep my head up. I have to learn how to walk again, if I want to walk. And I can’t just whine.” I just decided I needed to be strong for my own self. And I just had to put my best work into getting myself better and taking time to make me feel better.
RM: Talk to me about your friend that you developed Late with. It’s a combination of both your names. Is that correct?
LS: Yes, Lalia and Cate. So my best friend, we’ve been friends since we were four. We met in TK at elementary school. And we’ve been best friends ever since. We’re super close. And when I was in the hospital, I remember she called me every single day and she always checked and made sure I was okay. And she was always sending me packages and clothes to the hospital room. And I remember she planned this huge birthday party for me. And she was just there for me the whole time. So was her whole family. And I remember even during her birthday, she sent me… She went to the mall with a couple of friends for her birthday. Because she was supposed to have this birthday party, but she didn’t have it because I was in the hospital. So she went to the mall with a couple of friends for her birthday and she even sent me this video and was like, “Hi Lalia. We miss you. And we love you.” And it was so nice of her because she was always thinking about me and always sending me the nicest things.
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