The world is full of people who go to great lengths to transform their bodies. These transformations often take different forms and get to different extremes, but they can sometimes become dangerous when taken too far. Take this woman from Los Angeles for example, Sydney Smith aka “Giraffe woman”. One day, Sydney decided to fulfill her life-long dream of elongating her neck and “impersonating” a giraffe through her clothes. After five years though, she realized she could no longer do it, and you won't believe the painful process she experienced in order to take the brass neck rings off.
1. How Her Story Started
Sydney is an aspiring entrepreneur from Los Angeles who has always had a special passion for giraffes and neck rings. She was particularly obsessed with the Kayan people from the Southeast Asian region. So one day, she thought she could transform this very specific liking into something that would allow her to finally distinguish herself from the crowds of Los Angeles.
She wasn’t afraid, though she knew that what she was about to do would probably receive some mixed responses from the people who lived around her. Yet, she went for it. She slowly began adding brass rings around her neck, with the intent of eventually wearing them as the Kayan people did.
2. She Had A Dream
That was the beginning of Sydney’s unique story. She had a dream and was ready to go to great lengths to fulfill it, and that’s exactly what she did. It took her about five years to complete the task of adding five brass rings to her neck, which had become one of her most important symbols of beauty.
She had dreamt of being known for this before the age of 30 while becoming some sort of icon. So though she took her time with the process, she wanted the world to know that she was unique, and this would be done not only through her passion for brass rings but also by eventually becoming a “giraffe woman”.
3. A Dangerous Obsession Began
Since she was a little girl, Sydney absolutely loved reading. One of her favorite themes were the different tribes around the world, but she was especially fond of women from specific tribes in the Southasia region. Once, she was reading a National Geographic magazine when she came across several pictures of women who wore rings around their necks.
The custom was a symbolic gesture to make their necks longer. When girls would reach puberty they were expected to begin their ring journey, by placing a ring on their necks one at a time. The more she read about it, the more Sydney believed that this specific custom was her symbolic journey to beauty.
4. Combining Both Of Her Passions
Her obsession with neck rings didn’t make her fascination with giraffes disappear though. Something about a giraffe’s pattern was completely hypnotizing for Sydney, which resulted in a wardrobe that was full of animal prints, especially the ones of a giraffe.
In fact, anyone who knew her knew that one of her favorite things to do was to head to the local zoo and to stare for hours at the majestic giraffes there. So she thought, why not combine both of her passions? She loved neck rings and long necks, what could possibly be more perfect?
5. Chasing Her Dreams
She often thought about the times she went to her parents to voice her passions. She started doing so when she was very little, but unfortunately, her parents didn’t really give much attention to it. She was a determined little girl and knew from the get-go that she couldn’t give up on her dreams so easily.
She would often stand in front of the mirror while wearing a bunch of cheap wires around her neck, wondering what it would look like if she actually wore the brass earrings. And though this seemed like a silly obsession for her parents at the time, they would eventually realize that it was much more than that.
6. A Quick Look At The History Of Long Necks
Before we get into the juicy parts of this story, perhaps it’s important to understand the real meaning behind the custom of having long necks. For the woman of the Kayan Lahwi tribe, this custom comes from a long line of tradition that has passed from generation to generation. Every single girl who is a part of the tribe is expected to follow this tradition, and they start early.
Some women continue to add the neck rings one at a time as they grow older, and when they do, they have to be very careful to not crush their collarbones. And the women don’t just wear the rings when they’re out and about, they are also required to wear them at night.
7. Different Meanings To The Custom
The illusion of having a longer neck is instantly created due to the way the rings are placed, but in truth, the collarbone is the one that is pushed down and affected by the custom. Each of these women’s rib cage is compressed while deforming the clavicle. Though there are different theories amongst different tribes around the reason why women wear neck rings, one of these theories involves making women less attractive.
In the early days, it is said that tribal men would often kidnap beautiful women from neighboring tribes. So these tribes decided to include this custom to “protect” their women from being kidnapped.
8. A Compelling Theory Around Beauty
Though the previous theory is definitely compelling, it is a little bit contradictory to what others say, which involves the rings and the long neck making women more attractive. In some tribes, the rings are used to make a woman resemble a dragon, which is believed to promote a sort of sensual and unique appeal to the women who wear them. This was the theory that Sydney held on to.
She would wear a makeshift ring everywhere when she was younger, even to school. Her school friends eventually nicknamed her the “giraffe girl”, which she loved. Though she liked the recognition she was getting at school for her uniqueness, she wanted more. Her goal was to nail a front-page picture in a magazine, taking things to another level.
9. She Was Fulfilling An Important Calling
That was when she felt it was time to move from her makeshift rings to the real deal. But her family and friends often brought up some concerns. They would ask her why she was so fixated with the rings and the giraffe persona, why couldn’t she just be herself? But in Sydney’s mind, they didn’t understand.
The pain made sense to her, though she did sometimes doubt if her beliefs really did make sense. But one day, her icon, Lady Gaga, wore a dress made of meat to a concert she once attended. That inspired Sydney to wear whatever she believed in since her own icon had done so.
10. Getting Rid Of The Makeshift Rings
With new courage found in herself, Sydney was ready to say goodbye to the makeshift rings and to welcome the real thing. She was so ready to bring out her inner giraffe, in fact, she had been born ready! In order to make this change, she turned to one of her friends. She began in 2011 with just a few customized rings around her neck.
Though she really wanted to make things work, the rings were much more painful than she thought they would be. Unfortunately, though, she was aware that in order to reach her goals and her dream, the process would be somewhat painful, and she was ready for it!
11. A Dangerous Choice
So instead of giving up, Sydney took the pain as a challenge and a sign that all she had to do was persevere. She didn’t care about what anyone thought of her. She had customized rings made especially for her neck whenever she needed them. And because she wanted to achieve goals faster, she didn’t exactly follow the same route that the tribal women did.
The women usually start when they are young girls, giving them some time to adapt, but Sydney couldn’t wait any longer. Instead of having ten years to adapt to her new situation, she did it all in just a couple of months.
12. Did She Have What It Takes?
Every six months Sydney would go ahead and add another ring to her neck. Though it was incredibly painful, she kept pushing it all in the name of her dream. After a few years, she finally managed to get to 10 inches. Soon, she would be able to reach a foot’s length, which was one of her main goals.
But with all of that pain, would she be able to bear 5lbs of weight pressing down her collarbone? The ambition was definitely there, but did she have what it took both physically and emotionally?
13. She Was Recognized For Her Uniqueness
With all of that determination, there was a thing that Sydney really wanted to achieve - fame and recognition for her interesting life choices. Though the tribal costume of elongating one’s neck through rings was known in many places around the world, the custom wasn’t particularly known in Los Angeles.
So naturally, Sydney started really standing out whenever she walked in the streets of LA. People would constantly stretch their necks (pun intended) to see who the woman with the neck rings was. She liked to share every single part of her progress with her friends and family, so she regularly uploaded her life to her social media channels.
14. A Pathway To Fame
In no time, news outlets began picking up her story and sharing it on their own channels. People were completely fascinated with her unique story. Journalists started slowly approaching her to get more details about her choices, which started opening the doors to fame she had longed for a really long time.
In a couple of months, she was known all over the world, with people famously calling her “giraffe woman”. Several modeling agencies also started gaining interest and inviting her to model for their brands. She did have a unique look after all, which they believed would benefit their businesses.
15. Being Accused By The Public
But not everyone loved the “giraffe woman”. Whenever fame is concerned, there will always be people who disagree with a person’s choices. Her life was now open to anyone to judge after all. As she began to travel the entire world showcasing her peculiar style, some people were less impressed.
They accused her of only doing things to get people’s attention and instead of doing it for authenticity. They believed that she was disrespecting the tribe that actually practiced this tradition, and culturally appropriating something that was so sacred to them.
16. It Completely Took Over Her Life
Though the rings attracted many things she had dreamed of, it didn’t feel like that was enough for her. She began noticing that she could no longer function normally - the rings had taken over her life. Small things such as shopping, driving, or even taking a stroll down the street were difficult for her.
Sydney began worrying that she was becoming one of those people who eventually stop leaving the house. She barely saw her friends and family anymore, and truly dreaded any attention she got from people in the street. So the safest option was to simply stay home by herself.
17. Things Only Got Worse
Though Sydney loved the neck rings, she also had other interests in life. Amongst other things, she loved running, swimming, hiking, and doing things outdoors. The catch was that all of these things need some sort of agility and freedom of movement, something that she no longer had.
Also, it started being really hard to afford the life she was living. She got some money from her modeling gigs, but that wasn’t enough. She had to eventually make a decision and do something about her choices, no one else could help her besides herself.
18. No One Cared About Her
Though she did become famous and continued to get more attention than she could handle from the general public, the attention wasn’t particularly for her. No one was really interested in who Sydney really was, or in her motive behind her rings. All they wanted was to get a picture with her to share with their friends or post online.
They would do anything to get the picture, even if that meant invading her privacy. No one actually talked to her or bothered to ask her how she was anymore. This not only affected her life in public, but also her personal life, including her love life, or the lack of.
19. Another Nightmare
That was when Sydney realized she would have to make a pretty tough decision - her only option was to isolate herself from the world. She found herself jobless and depressed, which only made matters worse. Yet, she continued applying, because she knew that she wouldn’t survive much longer with no work.
Eventually, she found a job in a kitchen and was really glad to finally have work for a change. That too eventually became a nightmare though. It was really hard for her to work under the conditions that her neck and collarbone were under.
20. Her Love Life
Because of all of the attention, her neck and rings continued to get, Sydney forgot about her love life. She knew she had to open herself again and to start going on dates if she wanted her love life to evolve in any way. But soon she realized that the guys weren’t there for her, they were there for the fame.
Some were only interested in her rings, some complained about the smell that came from the rings, and others had the guts to ask her to remove her rings before meeting their parents. Those experiences took another toll on Sydney.
21. Afraid Of Snapping Her Neck
Things were getting so bad that Sydney decided that she wanted to get an expert opinion on the rings she was wearing. Her process had been very different from the women from the tribes in the Southasia region. Because they started wearing the rings when their body was still developing, the rings would grow and develop too.
But that meant that if they took it out after years of elongating their necks, their neck could literally break due to the lack of support. That made Sydney wonder, would it be better to just give up on the rings now?
22. Was She Being A Fool?
A doctor that she ended up consulting, Dr. Jonathan Nissanoff, advised her that the neck rings were in fact dangerous. He claimed that keeping them could come with a cost that she would have to pay for the rest of her life.
With her skin continuously stretching and her collarbones being more and more damaged, she no longer knew what to do. Things only continued to get worse until she realized that her rib cage was also becoming damaged, leaving her little to no option at this point.
23. There Was Only One Decision To Make
After doing a ton of tests to check her health, the doctors finally gave her a verdict. Her love for giraffes and neck rings had gotten out of hand and had taken over her life. A life that had become so fragile, that if she didn't make the right decision for herself she would regret it.
She kept changing her mind over and over again but knew deep inside that she had no choice if she actually wanted to keep her neck intact. So she called up a friend and asked for help to remove the rings. They used a chemical to make the brass melt and just like that they removed the rings forever.
24. A Stunning Neck
Though the neck was definitely longer than it had been before the rings, that didn't last for long. The doctors advised Sydney that her neck would return to its normal size after some physical therapy. The neck was pretty bruised and weak, but after some therapy and a chiropractor’s help, she would eventually return to “normal”.
She had chosen her life and her future instead of the neck rings, and she was proud of herself. Though her journey was certainly painful, she doesn't regret it for a second. She now lives happily with her husband and daughter.