On August 18 TLC aired the final episode of “My Giant Life,” a reality show that followed four exceptionally tall women over a period of a several months. Episode 5 was a conversation between the 6’6” or taller women who agreed to be vulnerable enough to share their feelings, very personal moments, and the trials and tribulations of a life heads about most. Besides updating the audience about their lives, Lindsey, Haleigh, Coco, and Nancy discussed how the taping of the show impacted them and answered questions from the moderator.
As interesting as the show was, so were the many comments on its Facebook page and how they have changed over the past five weeks. The show has brought out haters, rubbed salt into open wounds among tall women and bridged a gap among people of all heights. It also created a heated conversation among the tall community on the Tall Clubs International Facebook page.
The first controversy focused on using the word “Giant” in the title of the program. Tall people hate being considered giants or giraffes. Even the ladies on the show weren’t keen on the title. As Coco said to her friend while taking a yoga class, “I’m not big, I’m tall.”
The next problem was the angle of the camera when the women spoke directly to the camera. As they talked about their specific lives, it appeared that they were sitting on small chairs and the camera was on the floor, angled upward. Viewers were quick to voice complaints about how the shots made the ladies look like giants among the Lilliputians.
As the weeks passed the storylines uncovered the raw emotion that ran just below the surface for each of the women. Buying long enough pants, “trying on” furniture to find sofas high enough and deep enough to be comfortable, and knee-bruising airplane seating were just a few of the trials that viewers experienced along with the ladies. Both Nancy and Haleigh let us tag along as they tried to find a prom dress and a wedding dress that covered their ankles and high heeled shoes without expensive alterations. Coco went on a blind date only to have the man turn and run after seeing how tall she was.
Haleigh Hampton took time from her busy life to answer a couple of questions for this reporter. One was about how being part of the show impacted her. “Filming the show has brought up so many painful memories of growing up and how hard it is to be different and the torment you suffer from your classmates. But as painful as it was, it was all worth it if telling my story gets to help even just one girl stand up a little straighter and be confident in who she was made to be.”
Haleigh told me that there were many tears behind the scenes. Even while now confident and embracing her “uniqueness”, bullying, teasing and growing up heads above the rest never was easy. Thankfully she had the support of her very tall family and a wonderful friend who became her husband recently.
In the last episode she addressed the controversy about marrying a man almost a foot shorter than she is. “Every woman wants to feel protected, feminine and dainty. His confidence and love makes me feel that way. It’s not about stature, it’s about the person.”
Being exceptionally tall means you will always stand out in a crowd. One discussion focused on things you should not say to a tall person, especially a stranger. They included: Wow, you’re tall (as if they didn’t already know that)! How’s the weather up there? How tall are you (considered as rude as asking a person’s weight)? Can I take your picture (think how uncomfortable that makes her feel)? Do you play basketball (don’t assume we all are athletic)?
Asking to take her picture really bothered Nancy, the high school junior who stands 6’9”. On the basketball court she rocks, but otherwise sometimes feels like she just wants to stay in a chair, hide, or “go into your rabbit hole so no one will stare or take pictures.” Raised in an exceptionally tall family she has the support she needs but is still learning to embrace her uniqueness and feel comfortable as a tall woman. It is not unusual for girls who have always been the tallest in school to feel that way.
A viewer shared her experience in the workplace. “I had a boss who asked me to stand up when she was introducing me to a new coworker so that they wouldn’t be shocked when they saw me walking down the hall. It does get tiring having it pointed out in a negative way.”
In 1938 a woman named Kae Sumner Einfeldt started a club in Los Angeles for tall men and women. Since then hundreds of tall clubs have helped tall people feel accepted and find friends who share many of the same experiences growing up. “My Giant Life” was uncomfortable for some of the tall club members since it brought up many of buried memories. However by the end of episode five TCI members supported the show for the most part and posted that the show might change “normal people’s attitudes” towards tall people and help them truly understand the challenges tall folk face.
So- has the show made a difference in the way the world views tall women? Haleigh shared her experiences since the last episode aired. “Since filming the show the greatest shift for me has been how people treat me. The looks have gone from horror and shock to admiration. When people come and talk to me it’s a positive and they were much more sensitive.” She shared that the four ladies said yes to the show because they wanted to “open the eyes of America as to what it’s like to live life from a taller perspective and to encourage people to think before they speak. We just want to accept what makes us unique, which is being tall, being awesome.”
The viewers’ comments also spoke volumes. One viewer summed it up this way, “I just want to say that I watch your show on TLC, and I’ve grown up tall and you’re a true inspiration to me. Thank you for being so positive about things in life and thank you for also showing me that it’s definitely okay to be tall.”