Illustration: Elena Scotti/Gizmodo (Photos: Getty Images)

No matter how old you are, the website Height Maximizer claims it can provide you with “legitimate information that will actually help you become taller.” It features “height hacks,” alleged height-boosting supplements, and “8 Ways to Get Taller: Tips That Work (for Every Age).” Each page is topped off with the site’s logo—a picture of a bodybuilder and a bright red arrow pointing upward, and below it, the Height Maximizer tagline: “Puberty or Not, Here We Grow!”

Not every post is a sales pitch, but Height Maximizer is an affiliate seller of supplements and other height-related products like “Grow Taller 4 Idiots,” a book-and-DVD set promising to teach purchasers “One Simple Trick” that “FORCES You to Grow AT LEAST 2 Inches Taller In 8 Weeks, Even if You’re PAST PUBERTY!” In its mix of ad copy, sincere-sounding musings, internet research on human physiology, and before-and-after pictures, there’s something almost surreally casual about the site’s treatment of height—something at least most adults see as non-negotiable—as an area of self-improvement akin to weight loss, or a life obstacle that can be overcome with the right combination of hustle and vitamins.

Height Maximizer is just one star in an ever-expanding galaxy of sites, products and services promising to let users see the world from a higher vantage point. You can find a host of apps, exercise routines, surgeries, diet plans, and personal blogs filled with tales of self-experimentation and complex, quasi-scientific theorizing on how to grow at any age. There are supposed stature-enhancing devices and harnesses, YouTube videos watched by millions that claim to hypnotize viewers into growing taller, and as with most any ailment or aspiration, there are pills: Nutritional supplements like Peak Height are aimed at kids who are still growing, while others, like Growth Factor Plus, claim to be for “Mature Adults Seeking A Second Chance For Growth.”

Reddit is rife with threads from fully grown adults searching for pills and stretches that will best befuddle the forces of genetics, or teens angling for a big date or a spot on the basketball team, asking the platform’s assemblage of peers how to turbocharge natural growth. Users query whether supplements for height growth are a scam, seek advice about limb-lengthening surgeries, and show off reported height gains, like a 26-year-old woman who claimed she stretched 3.5 inches from swimming and yoga. One user said he’d gained “about 1.5 cms in 3 days” from music that claims to help you “grow taller in one listen.” Out here in Tall Country you can find it all: legitimate medical science, harmless fantasy, and unaccountable inch-peddlers, hawking dubious nostrums and questionable advice.

There are some compelling reasons for wanting to be taller. A 2015 University of Chicago paper, for example, showed that taller people tend to enjoy “a substantial premium in earnings and wages,” and multiple studies have found that tall people are perceived by others as having superior leadership potential. Other research shows taller people report higher levels of satisfaction with life in general, are more likely to be elevated to managerial positions, and even experience less sadness and physical pain than shorter individuals.

But romance might be the most visible and sensitive of the social areas in which height and success are correlated. In surveys, heterosexual women have shown a preference for taller men. And even as life online allows for the possibility of less facile first impressions, people are also frequently flattened into lists of physical stats, hobbies, and profile pics, especially when it comes to dating. (Earlier this year, dating platform Tinder pranked the public with an April Fool’s update promising to verify the height of male users, a winking reference to men lying about their heights to seem more attractive on dating apps.)

There are people of every gender, size, and background who wish they were taller, but the world of online height hacks and stature-enhancement is very much fed by the loneliness and insecurity of men. Maybe it’s not surprising that height increase is a frequent topic of conversation among incels, or involuntary celibates, a loosely affiliated community of mostly young men who rage against the women who don’t want them, touting statistics around looks and height as proof that society is biased against them—and sometimes concluding that the only way to find companionship is to somehow get taller. As one incel poster put it, when it comes to love, “If you’re short, it’s fucking OVER.”

“I need a way to get taller,” pleaded one user in Reddit’s “shortcels” group, who expressed interest in “spine lengthening, glucosamine, stretching, etc.” A post on the “braincels” subreddit, which has more than 65,000 subscribers, titled “(insane life fuel) Grow taller at any age,” details a “very promising” height-enhancing supplement routine. Another poster, who identifies himself as a “25 year old virgin,” describes his “massive incel experiment,” a complex, years-long plan to transform himself into an attractive man through hair transplants, steroid use, and leg-lengthening surgery.

Posts about tall pills and height hacks have been banned from r/short, a height-oriented subreddit with more than 30,000 members, because, as one community moderator told Gizmodo, he and other moderators felt these products were usually misleading and part of a culture that fed on short desperation, preventing people from learning to live in their own skin.

There’s no denying that it takes a kind of defiant optimism to head to the gym with a bag full of height-enhancing pills, ready to stretch yourself beyond nature’s limitations. But from parents giving online mystery supplements to their kids to the internet forums where short people debate the best ways to grow taller, there’s also a sort of deterministic fatalism here, a fear that if people are not tall, they will be unable to find happiness, partnership, or professional success.

Over the last 150 or so years, average human height in industrialized nations has gone up about four inches, a development generally attributed to improvement in childhood nutrition. Over the last few decades though, the worldwide height trend seems to have plateaued, with some countries, including the U.S., even reporting a slight decline in men’s height overall. According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control, American women now have an average height between 5’3” and 5’4”, while men grow to an average of just over 5’9”. These days, while malnutrition, trauma, and childhood exposure to disease can still have an impact on growth, in healthy kids, final height is pretty much a matter of genetics.

“There’s no food or nutritional supplement that has been proven to impact the final height of an otherwise healthy child,” says Dr. David W. Cooke, associate professor of pediatrics and clinical director of pediatric endocrinology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who treats a range of health issues related to growth. Still, he clarified, in childhood, “There are certainly medications that can impact growth.”

Kids diagnosed with conditions like growth hormone deficiencies or idiopathic short stature—a term for otherwise healthy children who fall into the shortest 1.2 percentile—can be treated with synthetic human growth hormone (HGH), which can improve final height “dramatically” for those with deficiencies and usually between one and two inches for short, healthy children, said Cooke. (Some studies have correlated childhood growth hormone use with long-term health risks.) HGH predominantly promotes growth by triggering production of insulin-like growth factor 1, a hormone that then stimulates the body’s epiphyseal growth plates, cartilage structures at the end of bones that produce new bone growth in adolescence.

People’s growth plates begin to disappear in their teen years, and as the plates’ cartilage is replaced with solid bone in a process called “fusion,” people stop getting taller. For adults, “there are limb-lengthening procedures where you break the leg bone and stretch them out, but short of surgery, you just can’t get taller if you’re finished growing, if your growth plates are fused,” said Cooke. (Limb-lengthening surgery can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and involves a long, painful recovery process.) Taking supplements to increase adult height “does not make any sense at all,” he said. “That just isn’t going to happen.”

The “about” page on Heightmaximizer.com features the story of a young man named Alan Care, described as the site’s founder. In a letter to the site’s readers, Care writes, “If you’re struggling to grow taller, I’ve been in the exact same shoes as you are in.” According to the site, Care had short parents and was shorter than all his friends, but “became way taller than I ever thought was possible,” through persistence and “reading 100s of different blogs and articles about how to increase your height.” Though he doesn’t write about it on the site, Care also has another problem: He is not a real person.

Alan Care and Height Maximizer are the creations of Jason Yoon, a 24-year-old Toronto man who said he developed an interest in height and its discontents while studying kinesiology in college. “I was always curious to know the truth, if you want to grow taller, or how much genetics affect your height, and how much you can grow taller after puberty,” said Yoon in a phone call. His plan, he said, was to gather the internet’s accumulated wisdom about height gain, “put it all in one blog,” and in the process, make some money from affiliate links to supposed height-enhancing products. Though Cooke said that people do not get permanently taller after their growth plates fuse, Yoon claimed he and his friends have experimented with height-gain products and have become taller as adults using a regimen of stretches and supplements.

Yoon said he created a fictional founder for the site because he had a “fear of revealing myself online,” and he thought the most relatable image would be “a white guy… who doesn’t look too much like a model. Actually, I don’t know what I was thinking,” he laughed. He told Gizmodo he’s been feeling weird about the fake persona, and now plans to redo the site, incorporating his real name, pictures, and specific information about his own product experiments.

Laying out the basics of how most online height-enhancing products claim to work, Yoon said, “if your bones are still growing there are different things you have to do to maximize your bone growth, whereas if your bones are done growing you have to try to maximize your spine length.” (According to Cooke, “maximizing bone growth” in healthy kids only requires an adequate diet.) Yoon believes fully grown adults can grow up to about two inches by stretching their spines. He said he warns adults, “if you’re trying to maximize your spine length, you can only grow so much.”

“No adult can increase their height without surgery, period,” said Todd Milbrandt, orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of orthopedics and pediatrics at Mayo Clinic. By stretching the spine, said Milbrandt, “you could probably gain a little bit of height, but this is all temporary height, not permanent height.”

Spine malleability is a frequent part of pitches for products and services aimed at adult height gains. Your spine has 24 movable vertebrae with cartilage between them, which allows the backbone to expand and contract under certain circumstances. In space, for example, astronauts can reportedly become a few inches taller without the pressure of Earth’s gravity, though they revert to their previous height when they get back home. In fact, because your spine decompresses when you lay down to sleep and recompresses throughout the course of the day, people are one or two centimeters taller when they first wake up, explained Cooke. The spine can also be elongated with various exercises and stretching routines, but in all cases, most experts agree that the boost is temporary.

“I only tested one supplement and it worked,” said Yoon, referring to Growth Factor Plus, which costs $169 for a bottle of 60 tablets and is one of the more popular height-growth pills floating around online, sold by a New Jersey company called Purity Select. (Purity Select did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.) Growth Factor Plus claims it can help adults grow taller by aiding additional cartilage growth between the spinal discs, preventing them from recompressing after exercise, and thereby making stretching gains permanent. While noting he hasn’t seen specific studies on this supposed mechanism, Cooke says it “does not seem plausible,” and he “would not at all expect it to have any effect.” “I know nothing that works like that,” said Milbrandt. “Your cartilage doesn’t grow in height.”

Aside from its cartilage-related claims, Growth Factor Plus is also marketed as an “HGH supplement” meant as an “alternative to prescription HGH for adults,” which according to the product site, “May aide in Height Growth.” According to Cooke, the term “HGH supplement” is meaningless, because HGH cannot be taken orally, and because if people are not sick or malnourished, no nutritional additive has been proven to change overall growth hormone production in a way that alters your final height. Yoon points to studies that suggest one ingredient in Growth Factor Plus, an amino acid called arginine, can cause secretion of HGH when administered orally, but according to Cooke, in any case, HGH would not help adults grow taller because their growth plates have fused. Bovine pituitary extract, another ingredient in Growth Factor Plus, does contain actual bovine hormones, though they would also just be “digested in the stomach,” said Cooke, “and not absorbed as growth hormone.” Plus, Cooke noted, bovine pituitary extract could theoretically be contaminated with disease-causing prions, though the risk is likely extremely low.

There are (at least) dozens of supplements out there that have been claimed to make people taller, from ashwagandha extract, an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, to NuBest Tall, advertised as an “integrative formula between the East and West medicine.” But aside from Growth Factor Plus, only one other supplement, Peak Height, bears the Height Maximizer Seal of Approval. Peak Height is probably the highest-profile stature supplement out there. Boasting hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon, Peak Height consists of vitamins and amino acids the company claims can help kids add up to 3 inches to their adult height, if taken “during all their teen growing years.” A six-month supply will run you about $200. Yoon referenced research that found a nutritional supplement promoted short-term growth in short, thin boys as evidence the supplements could be effective.

Cooke said the ingredients in Peak Height sound harmless, but he would tell parents considering giving the supplement to their kids that doing so would be “a waste of their money, because it’s definitely not going to impact their child’s final height.” He explains that while there may be many factors that could potentially cause short-term growth or a temporary rise in hormone levels, the study Yoon points to only shows a “pretty small difference” in growth rate, and “increasing growth rate in the short term is still many steps away from increasing final height.” Growth hormone levels too, he said, can be acutely increased, but that’s also a far cry from a “sustained persistent increase in growth hormone levels that would meaningfully change a child’s growth.” It also seems convenient that these supplements are taken during a kid’s peak growing years, making it difficult to separate any results from normal growth or a coincidental late-bloom. Similarly, Growth Factor Plus supposedly needs to be used in combination with spine-stretching exercises and posture improvement, clouding the ability of users to differentiate between the pills and the normal effects of stretching and standing up straight.

“I’ve wanted to be a little taller, always,” said Jason Lee, 27, a friend of Yoon who participated in the Growth Factor Plus experiment and claims he grew “about 3.7 centimeters.” Lee says he’s shorter than all his cousins, which made him “insecure” at family gatherings. “My background is Korean,” said Lee, “and our country tends to care about height quite a lot.”

Aside from the pills, Lee, Yoon, and two other friends also incorporated other height-enhancing “strategies that were revealed online,” said Lee, like sleeping without a pillow. (The type of pillow you use can impact your head and neck posture.) “We used posture correctors. And then five to 10 minutes of stretches every day.” He recalls how the group would do their stretches on campus, and “some of our mutual friends would pass by and ask ‘what are you guys doing?’ And we’d tell them, straight up: ‘We’re trying to grow tall.’ It was fun to see other people’s reactions. They’d just laugh. They thought we were joking.”

Given that you can to some extent stretch out the spine with exercise, if only temporarily, there are yoga proponents and Pilates partisans who advertise the disciplines as ways to boost your height. Practitioners of the Alexander Technique, a system of modifying movement and posture that is popular with actors and public speakers, have touted the program’s ability to help people stand measurably taller. In 2012, a Daily Mail writer claimed to have gained two inches after participating in a program called “Agrowbics” invented by a trainer named Pierre Pozzuto.

“I’ve always had an issue with my height,” wrote Pozzuto in an email, “I always looked young for my age.” In online photos, Pozzuto has a puckish smile and rocky, powerful-looking biceps and forearms. “Psychologically gaining height and muscle became my sole quest. When I was wise enough, Agrowbics made that possible,” he wrote. Pozzuto now runs Buff Bobcat, which sells supplements and other sports products; as a trainer, he’s worked with celebrity clients like Keira Knightly and Gordon Ramsey. Agrowbics, wrote Pozzuto, is “not a magic pill, you have to put in the work.” The program mixes “TRX, anti-gravity, Power Plate, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and yoga,” according to Pozzuto, and usually “sorts out a lot of back issues.”

Asked about stretching gains wearing off, Pozzuto was adamant: “The results are permanent,” he wrote. He claims he regularly checks back in with trainees, and “all my Agrowbics clients keep the gains.” It’s not just stretching the spine, wrote Pozzuto, “HIIT training causes growth hormone (HGH) release, and bone microfractures that help with tissue growth.”

There are studies showing that high-intensity interval training can increase growth hormone levels, but for adults, said Milbrandt, “unless you have a growth plate that HGH can act on, it doesn’t matter.” Exercise that causes microfractures (which are, as they sound like, small fractures in the bone) will not make you taller either, says Milbrandt, “unless you had a way to expand them over time—that’s how the surgery works.” Maybe, he mused, it would be theoretically possible “if you hung upside down for four weeks in a row, all the time.” 

Maybe the most curious example of online height-boosting methods is YouTube’s collection of hypnosis and meditation audio presentations, using binaural beats, subliminal messaging, and special frequencies to channel tall vibes to viewers. One track by the Brainwave Power Music channel, called “Grow Taller - Pituitary Stimulation Music,” has more than 970,000 views on YouTube and thousands of comments, like “’I’m 16 my height was 143 and now I’m 148 cm I grew 5 cm in 5 days,” or “It works if you use it regularly for at least two weeks,” or “I’d recommend listening to this before you go to sleep for the best result :)” One commenter asks if the video will help people with scoliosis.

Kurt Attard from Brainwave Power Music was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and comes from an “immigrant Maltese family,” he wrote in an email. The YouTube channel “employs 6 full time staff,” he wrote. “I personally always had trouble sleeping, [with] overthinking keeping me up at night. That’s how I discovered binaural beats.”

If you play a tone of one frequency in your left ear, and another tone of a slightly different frequency in your right, your brain produces the illusion of a third tone, called a binaural beat. The effect of binaural beats on the brain is still unclear, but early research suggests a possible impact on factors like mood and anxiety. There’s a lot of online enthusiasm for theoretical potential, and you can find believers claiming they can help you do anything from relieve stress to regrow your foreskin.

Attard said the “Grow Taller” video includes the 7.83 hertz Schumann Resonance and its octaves, particularly 31.32 hertz, for the purpose of “pituitary stimulation.” He added other frequencies, in this case to represent effects like a feeling of rejuvenation, and then wrote music that complemented them. That said, he explains, “we never advocate using our frequencies as an alternative to modern medicine.” Brainwave Power Music wants to help its viewers “relax, sleep and de-stress, and although there is some science to support it, at this stage it’s purely entertainment in every way,” wrote Attard. “The placebo effect could also come into play,” he adds.

Asked about growth music, Cooke says, “there isn’t a mechanism I can come up with that has any foundation in physiology that would explain how that would work.” Still, he said, as a doctor, he can only offer an opinion based on medical research and his own observations in the field. “The generic disclaimer is that many things are possible and until they are studied you just don’t know… The purist in me says, ‘I don’t know, show me the data.’”

As a moderator of Reddit’s r/short community, Jerry Hodge, a Texas motorcycle mechanic, said he’s seen pretty much every type of get-tall pill, “height hack,” and stretching plan out there. Hodge, who’s 57, a little under 5’2’’, and has been married for about 27 years, found the community when helping someone on Reddit modify a motorcycle for a shorter rider. To Hodge, the travails of shortness are about “fitting into my physical world. It seems like everything is made for somebody much larger than me.”

In the past, r/short was one of the places users would discuss height gain, and while it still comes up “all the time” he said, now “we have the snake oil rule. Those posts are actually prohibited, we remove them.” Posts from teens asking how tall they will grow, or how to boost their natural growth are also taken down, said Hodge. “It’s like asking when you’re going to die. Talk to your doctor because the subreddit doesn’t know.” Even posts about surgeries are usually cut, he said, because “there is a dedicated subreddit for leg lengthening.”

To Hodge, policing what he and the other moderators see as snake oil is part of a larger battle over the tone of the community and the online discourse around height. The community had become a depressing place, he said, dominated by “young guys who just felt absolutely hopeless because they’re short.” Especially on Reddit, there was heavy crossover between the short community and the world of incels, who broadcast a bleak vision of statistical doom for short individuals, shunning self-improvement or inspiration in favor of blaming their problems on feminism and the cruelties of evolution.

They “attacked female posters,” said Hodge, and “we decided we were actively going to crack down on everybody trying to shut the women up.” As one woman who is also a moderator on r/short wrote in a post about a year ago, “This is NOT a man’s sub. This is a sub for SHORT PEOPLE.” While some users complained that women don’t face the same shortness stigma that men do, said Hodge, “There are a lot of women in my size and barstools aren’t any shorter for them.” Incels “spread fear, uncertainty, doubt,” among younger male users already insecure about their heights, he said. “They want you to feel bad about yourself.” As one r/short poster put it recently, “I honestly wasn’t even that depressed about my height until I spent more and more time here.” When people get the idea that happiness and romantic success are inextricably tied to height, said Hodge, some naturally conclude that the only way to get happier is to literally grow taller, no matter what the haters say. “One always follows the other,” he said, and of course there’s always someone selling a solution. “That what our society is,” said Hodge. “Let’s find the insecurities people have, let’s prey on them and make some money.”

“Kane,” a two-year veteran of r/short, who lives in Boston, works in banking, and didn’t want to use his real name for professional reasons, said he sees Reddit posts about height-enhancing products and services “all the time.” The people who he’s seen post about height gain tend to be “teenagers, people who are bullied, and people in their early 20s, struggling with their love life. And they think this one thing will help fix it for them.” He said, “If there is a shortcoming that’s real or perceived there is somebody out there trying to fix it for you for a price.”

Ellen Katz Westrich is a clinical psychologist on the faculty at NYU Langone Medical Center, who performs valuations for patients considering limb-lengthening surgery. “I see many more men with height dysphoria than women,” said Westrich in a phone call. Generally speaking, “for women, [the dissatisfaction] tends to be work and career related, like ‘I have to give professional presentations and I feel like people are looking at me like I’m a little girl.’ With the men, it seems to touch on several different spheres of functioning—at work, socially, and romantically.”

Height dysphoria is “a dissatisfaction with one’s stature that affects a person’s mood and thoughts about themselves,” says Westrich. “A number of patients have described it as a dull hum that’s always there.” Still, she cautioned, a lot of people are consistently unhappy with their height; that kind of dissatisfaction is not the same thing as “somebody who really feels that their stature is really the single reason why they haven’t achieved what they had hoped to in life.” That would be “more of a body dysmorphic disorder,” she said, an “unrelenting fixation on a particular perceived defect on one’s body” that in her opinion, would make someone a poor candidate for surgery.

Ultimately, she said, choosing to become taller through surgery shouldn’t be about whether being short is a “bad thing,” or a referendum on society’s prejudices. Instead, “height dysphoria is really about somebody’s relationship to their own bodies and what they feel would help their psychological state. Sometimes it’s surgery.” Societies, especially in the U.S. and Europe, may indeed be prejudiced against short people, said Westrich, but “you can be a person who’s 5'4" and the idea of surgery would never even occur to you. You’re happy in your body. But you live in the same culture as the other guy who’s 5'4" and feels like he’s at a profound disadvantage.”

Stephen Goldsmith, for example, who ran the now-defunct website Short Persons Support until 2014, said “All through my life my height had been an issue for me, because of the way people treated me.” He described meaningful height discrimination at his jobs as a software developer and a manager, and though it took him a little longer than some of his peers, he said did still find love, partnership, and professional fulfillment.

Kane, on the other hand, said he “never felt that height really played a meaningful part in what I could accomplish in life or in my dating life.” Yes, said Kane, “there is some amount of first impression bias that is a part of being short. I’d be an idiot to deny it. But what I question is the extent of those biases.” Hodge reveals that he was a late bloomer; at 16 years old, he was only 4'6" and yes, girls turned him down over his height. But “that’s life,” he said. Being short “does come with a certain hardships,” but “there are a lot of successful, happy guys who are shorter than average.”

When people, particularly young men, come to r/short to vent about the problems they’re having with dating, work, or self-acceptance, said Hodge, he just wants to be able to “get a positive message to some of these guys without blowing sunshine up their ass.” There’s still a lot of griping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on the message board, but there’s also a large swath of the community that has been working to make it a more positive, supportive place to discuss the particulars of life below average height.

A recent r/short post from a 17-year-old guy worried about being 5’5” and balding lamented, “my friends wanna make fun of me for being single, meanwhile they don’t realize the struggle.” While the post received a few replies from users telling the poster he was “totally fucked” and otherwise forecasting doom, there were many more replies from older Redditors explaining that despite being short, they’d found partners and happiness in life, encouraging the poster to learn to dress well, or work out, or distinguish himself in other areas. “You can’t change the hand you were dealt with,” counseled one user, “you can only make the best plays available to you.”

Users have taken to posting selfies with their partners, families, and friends, both to show off a little, and to give some inspiration and tangibility to the encouraging words, and promises that height isn’t destiny. According to r/short users contacted by Gizmodo, there have been more inspirational posts discussing celebrities, world leaders, and other successful people who were below average stature, or just discussing some of the practical issues that shorter folks deal with, like finding clothes that fit well. “[Hodge] and others trying to push for a more positive tone definitely changed the narrative of the subreddit,” said Kane.

About a month ago, Hodge posted a thank you to the community members that were making r/short a better place to be. “For the last few days,” he wrote, “my inbox has just been overflowing with praise for the sub and how it’s turned around. That’s not me guys, that’s all of you who said, ‘fuck the incel narrative’ and soldiered forward with positive posts, proud selfies, and uplifting stories. So to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!” In response, one user asked, “I left this subreddit after my brief stint because it was a toxic incel driven shithole. How the hell did you manage to turn it around?” The community had “literally flipped like a light switch. I’m impressed!” wrote another commenter.

Despite being in the height maximization business, even Yoon seems to agree that being tall isn’t everything. “Humans are superficial to a large degree,” he said, “but I think self acceptance can go a long way, especially when you’re in a position where you can’t change your physical reality.” He says he gets lots of messages from young men upset about their stature who think an inch or two will be a paradigm shift, but “I really don’t think height limits one’s social life, or career as much as people believe it limits them. And I definitely should talk more about it on my blog or in my emails.”

“Believe it or not, I never wanted to be taller,” Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, former WNBA coach, Space Jam alumnus, and at 5'3", the shortest player to ever compete in the NBA, wrote in an email. “My entire family is under 5’9’’ so it was something I had to accept.” Bogues is the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leader in assists and steals, and in his 14-year career playing professional basketball, he was known for using his speed and size deftly, maneuvering in ways that left larger players flat-footed. Never shy about discussing his height, Bogues has always embraced his status as a role model for shorter people, someone who proved, as he put it, “the game was not only meant for taller players.”

Bogues urged parents to speak with a doctor before giving alleged height-boosting supplements to their kids. He added that if teenagers or their parents are worried about making a sports team, they should instead consider looking up the “real life figures of smaller stature” who have excelled in athletics, of which there are many. “Representation is powerful,” he said. Shorter people can fight stature-related prejudice, wrote Bogues, by themselves becoming “living examples,” and helping others expand “their experience and interactions with people that don’t look like them.” In the end, “society may see being short as a disadvantage,” wrote Bogues, “but it comes down to your self-confidence and self love.”

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About the author

Jed Oelbaum

Jed Oelbaum is a writer and editor based in New York

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