Everyone has that one quirky buddy who enjoys bizarre pastimes that others find odd. But another reason we adore them is their individuality.
Sydney Smith, often known as “Giraffe Girl,” spent years bending her neck with metal bands to resemble her beloved animal, a giraffe. However, she abruptly came to a stop. She looks quite different today.
For Sydney Smith of Los Angeles, the desire for a long neck wasn’t just some passing phase.
It had been a fascination since she was in middle school and one that lasted well into adulthood. The funny thing was, she had gained the nickname Giraffe Neck long before she had ever decided to embark on her personal journey of beauty.
When she was young, her classmates had teased her about having a longer neck than anyone in the school.
Sydney also remembered seeing the tribal women of Thailand and Burma in National Geographic. The image of their elongated necks, through the use of rings, was utterly fascinating. On top of it all, her favorite animal was the giraffe! It was like the perfect combination. Her parents, however, stood in her way.
They passed it off as teenage nonsense – something that would go away in time. But for many years, Sydney would stare longingly at those tribal photos.
The odd thing was, when she came of age, and was legally allowed to make her own choices, she wasn’t ready to dive in … until she saw one particular singer’s dress.
It was Lady Gaga and her infamous meat dress. Sydney remembered seeing the crazy outfit and how the beautiful woman never apologized for her looks or fashion choices.
It was the final push she needed. And, with the help of a friend who specialized in body modification, she added the first few rings.
She didn’t care that the soldering left a few burn marks or that each new addition of a brass ring would cause pain – not to mention the entire collection weight in a 5 pounds!
The process usually took place when someone was far younger, and she had to catch up! But what was supposed to be a personal journey, quickly took on some unexpected fame.
Her fame started in her hometown and quickly spread through her documentation of the process through her social media accounts. Even Ripley’s Believe It or Not did a small piece about her in one of their editions!
Next came a flood of modeling offers. After all, it wasn’t a common sight out of a tribal setting.
Sydney was sitting on cloud 9 and loving every moment … that is until the last few rings started to affect her in unforeseen ways.
It had been 5 years and she didn’t want to slow down at all. But the rings ended up hindering movement and making it hard for her to keep up to speed in her regular marketing job. She had a new, very hard, choice to make.
She couldn’t swim or hike anymore. She also couldn’t walk five steps without someone bombarding her with selfie requests. The addiction to fame eventually fizzled.
She loved her long neck, but after months of contemplation, she finally decided to take off the rings. It wasn’t long until she was sitting in her friend’s salon, listening to the glue sizzling away. But what would she look like?
It was painful saying goodbye to the beautiful rings, but the end result was unbelievable – in both good and bad ways.
Her neck was indeed long, and she utterly loved it, but the bruising that was hidden underneath was shocking. On top of that her neck muscles were very weak. She needed help.
While the young girls of Southeast Asia had elongated necks, because Sydney had started as an adult, her transformation was very different.
Instead of growing a longer neck, she had been pulling down her collarbone and compressing her ribcage. Thankfully, the doctor had some good news.
Through a chiropractor and other specialists, she would slowly regain the strength in her neck. Also, the rest of her body would go back to normal.
Sadly, her title of Giraffe Woman would slowly fade. But did she regret her 5-year journey?
Sydney Smith proudly tells the world that she had no regrets. She decided to go after what she wanted in her life, experienced it, and dealt with the happiness and pain it brought.
“I really enjoyed the feeling of them around my neck,” she even claimed. Her “next step” surprised everyone.
The world wanted to know how Sydney would move forward. Everyone thought it was going to be some kind of beauty trend or fixation.
But no, more than anything, she planned to devote her time loving and cherishing her husband and daughter Skyler Rose, who was born in 2017.
There was no part of her journey that she regretted. And, even if the rings weren’t on her neck, she would still keep them locked away as a reminder to forge your own way, embrace your own passions, and never care what the world thinks of you.
No matter what direction Sydney took, it can be said that she had stirred up a lot of controversy as her time being the “Giraffe Girl.”
A lot of people spoke their minds on the topic. Many people were concerned about the example Sydney was setting for impressionable youths. “She’s trying to set a dangerous trend that’ll disfigure teens who think it’s a new fad.” One user posted online.
But that raises the question. How safe is it, and what effects does it leave on an individual? Well, some medical professionals decided to speak their minds too.
Sydney’s case had good news, and she recovered from her bruising and weak muscles left from the rings. But that’s just the thing. It’s unnatural, as one medical expert pointed out.
“This process puts incredible stress on the collarbones and shoulders. It pushes them down and can have permanent effects if they are left on for too long.”
Other experts even started to unravel the illusion that Sydney had a long neck because that wasn’t the case.
Experts swiftly brought the hammer down on anyone who was enamored by Sydney’s long neck. “It’s not making her neck any longer. The rings are pushing her collarbones down at a 45-degree angle. Her neck is the same length, but her collarbones are being collapsed.” Cried out another professional.
People like this started pleading with people online not to do what Sydney did. They said she got off easy compared to what could happen to many others. The most significant difference between Sydney and some not-so-lucky others is that it was her choice.
Some people, on the other side, don’t wear neck rings because they persuade beauty. It was for more sinister reasons.
Sydney may have been using neck rings out of her volition, but many others aren’t so lucky. In places like Myanmar, wearing neck rings that may collapse one’s collarbone and ribs is enforced for one of the pettiest reasons.
A humanitarian had entered the discussion and had some eye-opening insight to share. She would make sure everyone understood how tragic these things could be.
Jennifer Hennings, Ph.D., is a humanitarian and part of the IRC. She works for a non-profit organization in the hopes that they can abolish violence in places like Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
When Jennifer saw Sydney’s case, she quickly hopped online to give her expert opinion on the circumstances. What she had to say had the internet in disbelief.
A huge factor for many countries that most people don’t think about is tourism. Tourism is an immensely important economic factor that the government needs to take full advantage of. This is why most countries sell souvenirs and builds attractions to get people into their country.
It can be so profitable in some places that people resort to seedy tactics in order to get more people to visit their shops and stalls.
Even though the government isn’t to blame, it is private business owners who seek to exploit the culture around them to get more people to look at their unique way of living. Neck rings have a huge cultural significance in Myanmar.
Women have been using neck rings to seek beauty for centuries. But in some cases, it’s being forced on some who wouldn’t want them at all. Jennifer summarized in a comment she left.
“While many still partake in this aspect of their culture happily and willingly, there are others (especially the youngest generation) who don’t want to carry on the tradition. But because of the pressures of tourism, these young women are encouraged and sometimes forced by their elders to wear them.”
“Because of these cases, I don’t think that wearing neck rings should be encouraged. Not when people are being forced to wear them.” Jennifer carried on.
Jennifer’s words online were harsh but spoke the truth. But this only added gasoline to an already burning fire about the topic online. People would come out of the woodwork to tell Jennifer exactly what they thought.
Some people seemed to understand the sensitive issue, some were still on the fence, and some seemed oblivious to the point Jennifer was making. This issue wouldn’t die down for weeks.
“This Dr. or whatever she is makes sense. Let’s not spread awareness about this so-called “beauty” product that actually ends up hurting people and disrespecting the cultural beliefs of another country.” One user wrote.
But not all people understand the subtlety required for a situation as delicate as this one. One individual didn’t seem to understand at all.
“Why should we care about something like this? People have been doing what they want in this country forever. This is America, the land of the free. Just leave Americans alone and let us do what we want with our bodies.”
The commenter carried on, “This lady doctor sounds like she’s European and doesn’t understand our cultural beliefs. Leave us alone, lady.”
Some people seemed to understand both sides of the argument and rather sit on the fence than make a stand on either side. “Well, this seems like a really complicated issue. Maybe it is disrespectful, but if she really wants to do it, then she’ll do it. No one can stop people from doing stupid things.”
They carried on, “If people will do things anyway, then there’s no point in trying to make a stand on either side of the fence, in my opinion.” But are there bigger issues at hand?
Cultural appropriation can be a big issue when the tradition or individual group of people is damaged and means less when something they hold special is adopted by the masses. An example is white people adopting dreadlocks. This is often a great spark of controversy.
So, would they adopt potentially dangerous neck rings to honor their cultural roots or disrespect the tradition entirely? It’s a difficult topic to discuss.
“No matter if these are adopted by the masses or not, people need to respect the cultural backstory of the item. Myanmar’s people have been using them for centuries, and they should always be looked at as the original adopters.
Even if these rings can pose health risks, people will do nearly anything in the pursuit of beauty. What do you think of them?
Anyone can see that Sydney Smith is a woman unlike any other. Her fascination with giraffes and their long necks could be seen as unhealthy. As a child, her parents could have stepped in to guide her during those hours at the zoo.
Many people believe that delinquent behavior is due to negligent parenting and should be stopped as soon as there are signs.
Perhaps staring in awe at the majestic creatures and dreaming of one day having a neck just like theirs was a huge sign the carefree parents missed. As she grew older, this fascination turned into an obsession.
She began researching ways to make her neck longer and eventually came across this procedure which is not even a part of her own culture.
Without hesitation, Sydney underwent the ring process, emerged with a neck, and didn’t think of the consequences.
At first, Sydney was thrilled with her new look. She felt like a real-life giraffe and couldn’t wait to show off her unique feature to the world. However, her excitement was short-lived when Dr. Jennifer Hennings, a prominent cultural anthropologist, reprimanded her for her cultural appropriation misconduct.
Dr. Hennings explained to Sydney that the procedure she had undergone was dangerous and so profoundly disrespectful to traditional cultures where the neck elongation is a cultural practice.
Sydney was taken aback by Dr. Hennings’ words. She had never thought of it that way before. She had always seen her obsession with giraffes and her desire for a longer neck as a harmless personal preference.
Now Sydney began to see how her actions could be seen as an insult to those cultures where neck elongation was a cherished tradition.
Sydney felt guilty and ashamed and knew she needed to make things right. She reached out to Dr. Hennings and asked for her help understanding the cultural significance of elongated necks. Dr. Hennings agreed and took Sydney on a journey of discovery and education.
Together they visited various traditional communities in the US and internationally, where neck elongation was a part of the culture. Sydney was able to learn firsthand about the meaning and significance of this practice to the people who lived there.
Through these experiences, Sydney realized that her actions had been ignorant and insensitive.
Sydney apologized to the communities she had offended and vowed to use her platform to raise awareness and educate others about respecting traditional cultures.
Some people thought she was politically correct because she didn’t want any haters. But she told everyone that she would do something they never expected.
She decided to undergo a reverse procedure to remove the rings. Now people would believe that she seriously changed her mind. Sydney’s journey of discovery was challenging, but it was eye-opening and transformative.
Her neck was slightly bruised for a few days. But she had no regrets. Her experiences helped her to see the world from a different perspective and gave her a newfound appreciation for the rich cultural diversity that existed within it.
Sydney understood that America was known as the land of the free. But she also learned that if your freedom means using the cultures of other traditions in a way they wouldn’t usually it, it is wrong.
Still, true freedom was not just about the ability to do what one wanted but also about understanding and respecting the rights and traditions of others. Now her neck was free too.
From then on, Sydney dedicated herself to spreading awareness and education about cultural appropriation and respecting traditional cultures. She was brave to mention her personal mistakes.
She became an advocate for cultural sensitivity, and her story inspired many people to take a closer look at their actions and attitudes toward different cultures. People loved her honesty.
She became a symbol of hope and an example of how one person’s actions, no matter how well-intentioned, can have a powerful impact on the world around them.
Sydney received a great response from her social media following. Most thought she did the right thing by returning to her normal looks. Many people congratulated her on being so outspoken.
Through her journey of self-discovery and education, Sydney Smith learned that true beauty lay not in physical appearance but in understanding and appreciating the beauty of different cultures. And it was with this understanding that she had ultimately found true happiness.
Many of her friends said she was “happier without all those rings strangling her.” And her boyfriend wanted to reconnect with her too.
Sydney noticed the positive difference in herself too. It was almost as though she had found the person she was looking for all along—her true self.
She started to love her natural body again and found respect for herself as a woman. She realized that she was perfect the way she was and that she should love the skin she is in.
Sydney kept in touch with Dr. Hennings, as they became good friends. She invited her to give professional advice on their cultural topics. Together the lively ladies attended University open days and conventions to discuss cultural appropriation and discrimination.
The young lady was mentally free now. She had a purpose and a goal, all thanks to the good doctor’s teachings and kindness.
Some people still recognize the Giraffe lady and ask to take pictures with her. Sydney doesn’t mind because she is proud of her learning experience.
She always remembers how she had the self-control to put her ego aside for the greater good. She made a better impact by being herself than by trying to be famous by being somebody else.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.