'Giraffe Woman' finally takes off rings after stretching her neck for years
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" and "what's your favourite animal?" are two questions every child is asked. Only the class clowns would have the same answer to both questions, but they'd never be taken seriously. It's not really possible. Unless you're the Giraffe Woman.
Sydney Smith, a 30-year-old woman from Los Angeles, California, loved giraffes so much that she wanted to become like one. Smith wanted to be known around the world as the "Giraffe Woman", she who is so obsessed with giraffes that she takes physical measures to look like the lanky animal, long neck and all.
To achieve the look, she started wearing a stack of heavy metal rings around her neck in 2011 in attempt to push her collarbones down and elongate her neck.
The idea came from the Kayan people, an ethnic minority group native to Burma and Thailand who use brass coils to extend their necks. Smith was fascinated by the South East Asian people and had her own rings custom made. Over the course of the intervening years, she gradually added ring after ring as her neck grew longer.
But earlier last year in March, Smith announced she would finally remove the rings. She said that her life had become ruled by the rings:
"I spent five years of my life with rings around my neck and I just became very introverted and isolated and felt like the rings were taking over my life in every way.
"Unless you are willing to completely isolate yourself and you're a trust fund baby and don't ever need to leave the house, don't ever need to drive, then maybe you can pull it off.
"It was always about the rings, it wasn't about Sydney anymore. I tried sticking my neck out to make it work but logic kicked in after a while."
She says she couldn't function properly for the lifestyle she was living in LA because of the physical restrictions of the rings. Smith was aiming to eventually wear 20-25 rings at once, but the most she managed to wear was 15 rings, weighing 2.3kg, as depicted here:
When Smith pried the stack of rings from her neck, she said she had severe bruising around her collarbone and that her neck felt extremely weak, "kind of like arms on a toothpick".
She said that while her neck looked longer than when it started, it wasn't all too different than from five years ago. "People have this misconception that they think that your neck is going to look super long when you remove the rings," said Smith. "It goes back to normal. I do feel my neck is longer than when I started but I feel like it has shrunk since I took them off."
The decision to wear the neck rings was never really supported by doctors, but her recovery through physical therapy now is moving faster than doctors predicted. Despite the damage, Smith doesn't regret the five years attempting to elongate her neck:
"I miss the sensation of the weight on the collarbones, which was in a weird way very comforting."
Since then, it seems she's still doing modeling work with and without the neck rings, although she doesn't wear them permanently anymore.