Woman Devotes Half A Decade To Stretching Neck In Honor Of Giraffes, Her Favorite Animal

Published: Aug 05, 2023

As the specialist painted on the substance that would dissolve the glue around her neck rings, the woman waited for the moment of truth. She’d made a life decision some time ago to change her appearance, just like other people have a nose job or get their eyes done. 

She’d worked hard, struggled, and put up with people staring at her. Would what her new neck look like?

Meet Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith of Los Angeles was a bright child who happened to be obsessed with one thing. She absolutely loved giraffes. She adored their beauty and grace, and especially their long, elegant necks. 

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Source: WatchZozo/Youtube

She had been fascinated with giraffes since middle school, and that obsession did not fade as she got older. Because she had an especially long neck, her schoolmates had nicknamed her “giraffe neck,” but that was before she decided to change her looks.  

Giraffe Neck?

She also loved reading National Geographic and pondering the photos of tribal women from Thailand and Burma with their neck rings.

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The images of their elongated necks, made that way through the addition of more and more neck rings, were completely fascinating to her. Add to that her obsession with giraffes, and we can see where this is going. You can imagine what Sydney was thinking, but her parents had strong feelings about that. 

Not So Sure

Sydney’s parents assumed that, like all teens, their daughter was going through a phase that would end eventually. But they were wrong. If anything, their daughter’s obsession became stronger.  

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Sydney planned to wear neck rings and elongate her own neck. When she lived at home, her parents would not allow it, but when she finally came of age to make her own decision, she became a bit hesitant. That is until she saw a photo of a particular famous singer.

The Push She Needed

When Sydney saw Lady Gaga wearing her famous dress made of meat, she was in awe of how this woman did not care what people thought of her. She dressed the way she wanted and ignored the stares and mockery.

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This was the final push that Sydney needed. The question was: how would she do it? She decided to go to a friend who specialized in body changes and ask for help. Her friend was happy and excited to embark on this adventure with Sydney and placed the first few rings on Sydney’s neck.

I Not Easy

The soldering of the rings left some burn marks each time a new one was added, and the process was painful. Sydney felt the stretching of her neck and the weight on her collarbone. 

Source: sydneyvsmith/Instagram

In tribal cultures, this process would start during childhood and would not hurt as much since the child’s bones are more pliable. Sydney was starting at age 25, so she felt that she had to catch up. She had begun her personal journey, so what was she facing?  

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Sydney Becomes Famous

As more and more people noticed Sydney’s neck rings, her fame spread in Los Angeles, and she also gained an audience through her recording of the process on social media. She even had a visit from Ripley’s Believe it or Not, who included a small piece on her for one of their editions. 

Source: Sydney V. Smith the Giraffe Woman/Facebook

Then came something she never expected – modeling agencies began calling the beautiful woman and offering her jobs. Her look was so unusual and striking, and she was model-quality body-wise, so the offers kept pouring in. Next came a flood of modeling offers.  

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Five Years and Still Going

Sydney loved how her neck looked and loved the attention, the modeling gigs, and the comments from her fans on social media. She had continued to add rings slowly, but at one point, they started to affect her in ways she had not expected.  

Source: sydneyvsmith/Instagram

All those heavy rings weighing down on her collarbone made moving harder and harder. She had to give up her job because she couldn’t work at a desk, being unable to turn her head normally. At this point, she had to decide what to do.  

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Five Pounds on Her Neck

With five pounds of iron sitting on her neck, Sydney couldn’t swim or hike any longer. In fact, she couldn’t even walk around without people asking her to take a selfie with them. She was getting tired of the fame.  

Source: Verucaz/Facebook

Finally, she realized that the rings needed to come off. She wanted her old life back but was proud of seeing her goal accomplished. Sydney went back to her friend and asked her to remove the rings. Now she was worried – what would she look like?  

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After The Rings Were Removed

After removing the rings, Sydney noticed that her neck felt very weak. On top of that, the bruising was severe. Now she was on a new mission – to strengthen her neck muscles and find a way to eliminate the bruises.

Source: WatchZozo/Youtube

Sydney took herself immediately to a physical therapist and started working to strengthen her neck. But what she didn’t realize was the big difference between how the young tribal girls elongated their necks and how she had done the same to her own.

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The Changes

The young girls in Southeast Asia had started the process as children, so the process had taken on a different progression. Sydney had started as an adult, so the changes her body underwent were very different.  

Source: WatchZozo/Youtube

For the young Asian girls, their necks really did elongate. But for Sydney, as an adult, she had instead been pulling down on her collarbone and pushing down her ribcage. Her doctor explained this to her but also had some good news. 

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Getting Her Old Body Back

Sydney’s doctor recommended that she see a chiropractor for intensive therapy and a host of other specialists. Slowly, she would regain the strength in her neck, and put her body back in its correct alignment. 

Source: WatchZozo/Youtube

So, she was no longer known as Giraffe Woman, and Ripley would not follow her saga any longer. The question was: did she regret what she’d done? Had the years of wearing the heavy neck rings and doing some damage to her body been worth it?

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Totally Worth It!

Sydney Smith proudly told her social media followers that she was glad she went through with her plan and had absolutely no regrets. She was determined to ignore the naysayers and follow her goal; she did it and was proud of herself.  

Source: Story Facts Verse/Youtube

“I really enjoyed the feeling of them around my neck,” she stated. So, did Sydney Smith decide to go forward and live a quiet life? She didn’t seem the type to stop challenging herself. Look at what she did as her next step. 

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Next Challenge!

Everyone watched Sydney’s social media to find out what she’d do next. Most assumed it would be another beauty trend. The world wanted to know how Sydney would move forward.  

Source: WatchZozo/Youtube

Well, it wasn’t a new beauty trend or body fixation. She decided to devote her life to loving and caring for her husband, and daughter, Skyler Rose, who’d been born in 2017. She set a good example to others who are fixated on physical changes. At some point, family comes first.  

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Remembering Her Fame

Sydney wanted to remember her journey, even if she didn’t mind being out of the spotlight. She kept the rings as a memento and a reminder of how strong she’d been to see her dream through.

Source: Story Facts Verse/Youtube

She had learned not to care what the world thought of her and hoped that others would be inspired to embrace their passions and forge their own journey. She had stirred up a lot of attention and some controversy, but she will never be sorry for what she did.  

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Did Sydney Start a Dangerous Fad?

While Sydney posted about her experiences on social media, she received some negative and worried comments. People worried that she was starting a new fad that teens would latch onto and then end up hurting themselves. 

Source: Pexels

“She’s trying to set a dangerous trend that’ll disfigure teens who think it’s a new fad,” one of Sydney’s followers wrote. So, let’s consider the safety aspect – how safe is this practice, and what long-lasting effects might it have on an individual? Some medical professionals spoke their minds.

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Is It Safe?

In Sydney’s case, all ended well. She had her rings removed, strengthened her weak neck muscles, and recovered from the bruising. But the point is that she had to recover from something she did to herself that was unnatural.  

Source: Pexels

One doctor posted, “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.” Clearly, this was the case for Sydney, and it took her a while to recover from the effects of her actions.

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Some Experts Speak

Part of the reason Sydney chose to start wearing the neck rings was that she had always been told that her neck was unusually long, so she wanted to make it longer. 

Source: Pexels

But the experts criticized those who loved Sydney’s long neck. One medical professional stated plainly, “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.” 

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For Some, It Is Tradition

Once the debate about Sydney’s neck rings began, it grew. Followers were very worried that others would make the same choice and end up harming themselves. They pointed out that Sydney chose to do something drastic but didn’t intend to start a trend.

Source: Pexels

In some places, people wear neck rings because they are forced to, not because it is considered beautiful. It’s important to learn about what life is like for those who do not wear neck rings out of choice.  

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An Enforced Tradition

For example, in Myanmar, wearing neck rings that may collapse one’s collarbone and ribs may be forced upon people. In the tribe that wears these rings, some members have selfish reasons for enforcing this practice, including having little girls as young as five begin wearing neck rings. 

Source: Pexels

At one point in the discussion, a humanitarian spoke up and offered some important new information. She wanted the followers to know how dangerous and tragic the neck rings could be.  

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Why Do They Wear the Rings?

Jennifer Hennings, Ph.D., is a humanitarian and part of the International Red Cross. Her work involves stopping violence against women within these tribes to protect the safety and health of women and girls.  

Source: Pexels

Jennifer was following Sydney’s case, interested in what others said about Sydney’s experiment. She was unsurprised when people spoke out about the fear of a new trend taking hold among young girls to do the same thing. She then shared some incredible information. 

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They Do It To Increase Tourism?

Jennifer informed the readers that, in many countries, tourism could bring in huge cash flows, and the tribes try to come up with gimmicks to bring in tourists. The government encourages these gimmicks, including selling souvenirs, just to get people to spend money in their country.  

Source: Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

It is hard for us to comprehend a government allowing and even encouraging practices that might harm its citizens to bring in tourists. But for many countries, poverty is rampant, and they are desperate to find ways to fill their treasuries.

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Is There a Solution?

Even when it’s not the government putting pressure on tribes to attract tourists, private business owners can decide to use the native culture to bring visitors to the country. By touting the unique practices of Myanmar tribes, businessmen have succeeded in bringing outsiders to the country. 

Source: Pexels

Neck rings are culturally important in Myanmar, starting as a way of becoming more beautiful by having a longer neck. But there are also those women who do not want the tradition forced upon them.  

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Cultural Practice by Force?

Jennifer Hennings said, “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.” 

Source: Pexels

Understanding cultural differences is important, as is respect for those differences. However, it’s bothersome when we find out that people within certain cultures are forced to perform traditional practices against their will.

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Even More Controversy

Jennifer finished her statement, “Because of these cases, I don’t think that wearing neck rings should be encouraged. Not when people are being forced to wear them.” Her words were harsh but spoke the truth.

Source: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

This statement incited even more back and forth on the topic. Some people agreed with Jennifer, but others felt that traditions were important in any culture and should be respected, not thrown out. Some people seemed to understand the sensitive issue, while some were still on the fence.

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Agreeing with Jennifer Hennings

One user wrote, “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.”  

Source: Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

To understand the issues in this case, one has to have a sensitivity to culture and tradition but also societies where people are forced to embrace practices they are opposed to. One person, in particular, didn’t get the point. 

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“Who Cares?”

One poster wrote, “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.”

Source: Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

The commenter continued, “This lady doctor sounds like she’s European and doesn’t understand our cultural beliefs. Leave us alone, lady.” This person had no clue of the nuances that Dr. Hennings was referring to.

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Some Couldn’t Decide

And then, of course, there were those followers who understood both sides of the argument. One commenter said, “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.”

Source: David Cumming/IndiaPictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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 what about the larger issues that this type of practice brings up?

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Adopting a Practice or Appropriating One?

Sometimes when people pick up a cultural practice because they think it looks cool or interesting, without understanding its underlying reasons, it’s called appropriating. When a practice is adopted and taken on because one understands the culture and appreciates it, that might be a positive action.  

Source: Kobby Dagan / VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

So the question is, would people adopt potentially dangerous neck rings to honor their culture, or would they do away with the tradition altogether? This is a tough one. 

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Respect for Culture

Even if many people adopt the neck rings, they need to respect the cultural history of Myanmar’s people and understand what they are doing and why. After all, the Myanmar tribes were the originators of the custom.  

Source: Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images

Some people will do anything to pursue beauty, and others think that what Sydney did is too drastic. And, some don’t wear the neck rings for beauty but to respect their tradition. The debate goes on. 

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