In an industrial Brooklyn warehouse, couture clothes and fabric hang on a single rack. People buzz around setting equipment and props. Lights flash as a photographer checks her levels while an eclectic music selection blares from speakers that are small yet incredibly loud.

In the middle of it all sits Claudia Mason, calm and mentally preparing for a long day in front of the camera.

Body of work

Mason rose to fame as a supermodel on the covers of the world’s top magazines. Vogue? Check. Cosmopolitan? Check. Elle, W, Mademoiselle? Check, check, check. She has worked with famed designers, and had successful roles on stage and screen. Mason’s book ”Insider’s Guide to Teen Modeling & Finding the Supermodel in You” is coming out this fall, and she has a TV series in the works for 2016.

But today’s shoot isn’t for any of that. Claudia is posing for a new print PSA for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to show the world that stroke is largely treatable. And as a stroke survivor, she should know.

Claudia sat with Mediaplanet to learn more about her story and her passion for educating the public about stroke.

Mediaplanet: Most people don’t think someone young and healthy like you could have a stroke. What happened?

Claudia Mason: I had been in a jazz dance class the night before where I was tossing my head around, à la Beyoncé, in a move I’ve done many times before. I had some neck pain after class, but dismissed it as the result of a hard workout. I felt fine when I went to bed, but the next day I had a horrible headache and my vision was off. I was on my way to an appointment and the pain was so bad that I just sat down in the lobby staircase and dropped my head into my hands. Something was seriously wrong.

"Everyone should to be aware of stroke signs because a stroke can happen to anyone at any time regardless of age, current state of health or family history. I am a perfect example."

It was terrifying, but I still thought it was just a bad headache and I would get over it. While I was sitting there a kind stranger witnessed my distress and suggested that I call an ambulance, and I wish I would have. Instead we called my dad and he took me home and I went to sleep. When I woke up the next day I was still having vision problems so I went to the ER, which I should have done from the beginning. That’s when they told me I’d had a stroke caused by a vertebral arterial dissection from my dance move two days earlier.

MP: Was the word ”stroke” hard to hear?

CM: It was. Before my stroke, I had absolutely no idea strokes can occur in infants, children and young adults as well as senior citizens, no matter how perfect one's health is. What I did know is that many people who suffer strokes die, and even more live with devastating disabilities. I am so lucky that I was able to go right back to work and on with my life.

MP: What did change in your life after your stroke?

CM: When a health crisis occurs, I think most people re-evaluate their life. This certainly was the case for me. I became highly aware of and grateful for my blessings. I am so blessed and I never want to forget this. 

MP: Why is it important for everyone to be aware of stroke signs and symptoms?

CM: Everyone should to be aware of stroke signs because a stroke can happen to anyone at any time regardless of age, current state of health or family history. I am a perfect example. The general public must learn the signs of a stroke so they can get themselves or a loved one or a stranger, to the hospital immediately.

There is a three-hour window from the time a stroke occurs to the time when a drug can be administered at the hospital that may offset the damage from a stroke. Remember: time is brain. Get to the hospital immediately once you realize you or someone near you is having a stroke. 

MP: Why was it important to you to raise your voice for this cause?

CM: I believe by increasing awareness and empowering other survivors we can save more lives and also give people hope that there is life after stroke. I'm happy to be a spokesperson for the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association since it allows me to lend my face and voice to promote this important subject that touches millions of people worldwide, but doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. 

MP: How have you been able to use your career as a platform for stroke awareness?

CM: Being in the public eye is helpful when you're trying to spread information. I'm very grateful that I can use my celebrity to help educate people about this important subject. All lives matter, and it is the duty of those of us who are stroke survivors to pay it forward and help others.

Being a celebrity is useful in this case since people are interested in what I have to say. I want to always use this platform wisely. I am indeed grateful to be in this position and I never want to forget that with power comes responsibility.