While grandparents the world over collectively gasp at the sight of body modifications like tattoos and piercings, body mod work has been going on for millennia. The first example of a tattoo was found in 1991 when researchers discovered an inked-up body in the Alps that had been buried 5,300 years earlier. Known as the Tyrolean Ice Man, this European mummy really made waves with his many tattoos. Ancient Egypt was also known to be a hotbed for awesome ink.
Oh, and the Tyrolean Ice Man wasn’t just tattooed. He had piercings, too. This is all to say that human beings have been modifying their bodies for the entirety of human history, even though most body mod procedures still come with a touch of taboo. Still, as older generations pass on, people with tattoos and piercings are finding it easier to express themselves openly.
Some culturally-specific forms of body modification, though, still seem totally crazy to people on the outside. Practices such as using neck rings and foot binds have equally ancient roots but, for reasons you can probably imagine, they haven’t quite taken off in the mainstream.
One 30-year-old Los Angeles woman, however, really tried to bring neck ringing into the modern age. Meet Sydney Smith, the Giraffe Woman. Over the years, her dream has been to become world famous for her ultra-long neck and she started using neck rings to get there. Used for centuries in Africa and Asia, neck rings are designed to give the appearance of an elongated neck.
What’s really happening, though, is that the weight of the rings twist the clavicle and push the ribs into an unnatural position 45 degrees lower than normal. Smith decided she wanted a longer neck and invested in some neck rings to get it.
Since 2011, Sydney has been building up her impressive collection of neck rings to create what she feels to be a more elegant appearance. At one point, she had 15 rings .
In her words, “It is due to my early childhood obsession with the Kayan and Burmese Long-Neck tribes, along with my obsession with giraffes, so combined, I became the Giraffe Woman. When I first began stretching my neck, I started out with two rings and every few months, I started adding more rings. I believe the end result will be about 20, 25 rings.”
“I can feel the pressure on my collarbone. I know it’s working and I will possibly add another ring in six months to a year. I actually don’t want to hurt myself too quickly. It’s a subtle process.”
Even though multiple medical professionals warned Sydney about the risks of using neck rings and the threat they pose to her entire upper body, she persisted for quite a while.
Recently, however, she gave up her quest to be a long-necked woman. The weight of her 15 rings, which was about five pounds, was putting immense pressure on her body that she just couldn’t deal with anymore.
“I couldn’t function properly as a long neck woman with fifteen rings around my neck in the United States of America,” she said. “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.”
Well, you can’t say she’s not unique. It’s probably for the best that she left this behind, though. To learn more about the Giraffe Woman, check out the video below.