Don’t Panic – InkedMag


Photos by Casie Wendel 

If you had to sum up Lauren Sanderson in two words—two words other than “Lauren” and “Sanderson,” of course—those words would be “Don’t Panic.”

“My dad was a very motivational, inspirational kind of guy,” Sanderson tells us. “‘Trust the universe,’ that was his thing. He really instilled in me that life is what you make it out to be. ‘Life is a mirror,’ he would say, and you get what you put out.”

Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sanderson saw early success on YouTube as a motivational personality, speaking candidly about growing up as a child of divorce, coming out as gay and learning how to foster relationships based on mutual respect, compassion and understanding. Her channel led to an invitation to do a TED talk entitled “For God’s Sake, Just Love Them.”


The phrase “Don’t Panic” is tattooed across Sanderson’s throat, and it stands as a reminder of her father’s message to listen to the world around you and let it guide you, even if it’s scary as shit. “It’s so insane moving to LA from Indiana,” she says. “The culture, the people… everything is so different. ‘Don’t Panic’ was kind of an inside joke, and it wound up becoming the title of the first EP I released after moving out here.”

Sanderson’s music echoes with a blissful intensity, with lyrics that touch upon listlessness, longing, relationships, frustrations and fears. Not a far cry from the topics she discussed as a motivational speaker, but with a much different delivery. “I wanted to cuss, and I wanted to talk about being gay and about the things that they don’t want you to talk about in school,” she says. “So that’s how I started making music.” Influenced heavily by Lana Del Rey, Tyler the Creator and Mac Miller, Sanderson quickly developed an extensive catalog of music for a young artist, but that’s nothing compared to the task she’s about to undertake over the next year.

“I’m about to start releasing a song every week.”

Yes. You read that correctly.

“To me, that’s the most dope shit I could ever do,” Sanderson elaborates. “I feel like being an artist and being creative is about not caring about the imperfections and the flaws of your work. People get so wrapped up in perfectionism. I want it to feel like I’m releasing journal entries every week.”

Musician Lauren Sanderson
Photo by Casie Wendel

Fifty-two songs in a year is no small task, but Sanderson approaches it like any other undertaking—trusting that the universe will ultimately guide her. “I worry about fatigue,” she admits, “and I worry about burnout, but I think where I find balance is, like, well… if I am feeling that way, I can talk about that, and if I don’t feel like making a song, maybe I’ll sing about that.”

Sanderson seems to draw inspiration from everything around her—whether it’s people watching, driving aimlessly, skateboarding or the occasional romantic movie—and she derives a feeling of freedom in everyday life. Her relationship with getting tattooed shares a similar philosophy, one of taking chances, doing what feels right and trusting the people around her.

“There’s a tattoo shop in Indiana called Cardinal Tattoo,” she says. “It’s right next to the skate park that I was at every day. I would just skate and skate and skate, and then go get a tattoo. It just became my life, I was obsessed with these tattoos. I never knew what I wanted to get, I just wanted tattoos. They had a ‘get what you get’ box. It was 50 dollars and you drew two words out of the box. Whatever two words you drew, the artist went in the back and drew you a custom tattoo from the combination of those two words.”

“You choose your reality” is a line from Sanderson’s song SENSORYOVERLOAD*, and it encapsulates her approach to music, life and art. Sanderson has been in the public eye for her entire adult life, offering her insights, expressions and perspectives to an audience of millions. To her, this is only the beginning of her reality, as she undertakes her next professional platform, OnlyFans.

“Yes, I’m about to start an OnlyFans,” she says. “I feel like it’s going to be shocking for some people, but if you know me as this inspiring, motivating thing, this is just another outlet where I can tell my audience to fuck societal norms. Show your body, show the things that make you feel free. It’s an outlet of empowerment in my eyes.”

Lauren’s approach to the subscription service is ultimately another avenue to connect with people.

“I’m gonna be showing behind-the-scenes clips from my music videos, photoshoots and my life,” she explains.“I like the idea of being able to just talk to people. It’s another platform where I can build a more carefree approach. Think of it like Instagram, but the raw version.”

Sanderson’s message has always been one of positivity and a yearning to connect, and as she evolved as an artist and a public figure, that message evolved as well, branching outward into whatever medium she chooses to communicate.

“The bigger message behind me doing this is that I know so many artists who want to do an OnlyFans, but they’re scared of what people will think,” she says. “Well, I’m secretly scared of what people think too, but I’m doing it to inspire people to put themselves out there and not care about judgment.”

Lauren Sanderson is an artist. She takes the mundane from her surroundings and turns it into a true expression of herself. If the first thing we learn from talking with her is “Don’t Panic,” then the last thing we learn would have to be…

“Don’t listen to criticism from people who you wouldn’t take advice from.”

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