Undergoing leg amputation surgery did change Mariah Serrano's life for the better-- but not for the reason headlines are claiming.
As a teen, the now 21-year-old fashion designer from Mastic Beach lived with chronic pain and often missed class at William Floyd High School due to her clubfoot, until she made the decision to remove it days after her junior prom in 2009. Serrano had tried six different surgeries and developed a staph infection before coming to the conclusion, along with her doctor and family, that a prosthetic leg would be the best bet for her health.
Yet The New York Post published an article Thursday that calls her "a brave Long Island fashionista" who "did the unimaginable — she had her leg amputated so she could teeter around in stilettos."
"It was a serious health condition, and I did take that decision seriously," Serrano told Newsday on Friday. "It's given me my life back -- more than just the ability to wear nice shoes."
Serrano says it all started when she did an interview with UK publication The Mirror two years ago, and wanted to put a positive spin on her situation, mentioning that finally being able to wear the designer shoes she loves has been one of many post-surgery perks. But when the Daily Mail picked up the story this week, they set the scene for the twisted angle, harping on how she "was told by doctors that her condition meant she would never wear high heels or be able to pursue her dream job in fashion." Serrano says The Post played up this idea even after she explained the truth to a reporter directly.
While the style-savvy blonde does believe that the surgery has played a major role in her success -- "It enabled me to do things that I'd never been able to do-- walk, run, travel around New York City" -- she calls the story that she chose her fate based on footwear "blatantly incorrect."
She says living without her leg is at times "difficult and frustrating," but that it has enabled her to have an "adventurous and fun life." She even plans to climb a mountain Saturday while visiting her brother in Alaska.
But, health and mobility aside, has Serrano's amputation benefitted her shoe selection? Absolutely, she says.
"I have a normal girl shoe collection now," she said. "It has been exciting for me."
Serrano, who got a job straight out of the Fashion Institute of Technology with Betsey Johnson and now designs for American Rag at Macy's, says getting a pair of Jeffrey Campbell high-heel boots (shown below) was a special moment for her. "I wanted those shoes forever," she said, proudly adding that she also owns a great pair of Isabel Marant sneaker wedges.
When she's not designing, Serrano manages social media for a group of American-made boutiques in Manhattan and is involved with New York Fashion Week. She also posts style photos on her blog, Confessions of a One-Legged Fashionista.
"I absolutely love fashion-- it's something I'm very passionate about," she said. "But footwear would never be the reason for my amputation-- no doctor would ever let you do that."
Serrano was excited to wear her Jeffrey Campbell boots, above, after her amputation.