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Last year, it was my height that got me hired by a glossy magazine to photograph the Tall Clubs International convention, an annual gathering of men over six-two and women over five-ten. I could finally kick on my heels and be among my people.
My assignment: Shoot the convention’s crowning event, the glittering Miss Tall International pageant, where one woman would be chosen by pageant judges to represent the beauty and virtue of tall women everywhere. They begin with a head-to-toe-to-head scan, then settle into a sustained invasive gaze. My flight into Charleston arrived late, and I entered the lobby of the Riverview Hotel at a sprint, camera bouncing across my chest.
"For tonight," announced the six-foot-two rosy-cheeked brunette who would later become the pageant’s runner-up, "our make-up standard is, ‘Can you see it from a galloping horse?
’" They returned to the stage for the pageant’s Q&A and talent competition.
As with any unusual trait, tall women attract fetishists. Others follow me digitally, repeatedly emailing my account. The concierge glanced at me and silently aimed a pinky toward a dimmed conference room.
Sometimes I’ll find myself being tailed down the sidewalk until I duck into a fancy building and flash a smile at the doorman. Inside, a hundred men and women, five-foot-ten to seven-foot-two, sat around tables. Half of the audience turned at the disruption, straining their specially ordered formalwear, before nodding and returning their eyes to the stage, a set of cheap two-foot platforms on a beige rug, in front of a puce wall divider on tracks.
The women tend to be exceedingly friendly, a common trait among those with unusual physical characteristics.
It’s a social trick, pulling the ball back into your court by letting all your wonderful traits shine through from the get-go. They’ll point out that Olympic volleyball bombshell Gabrielle Reece is six-three, that Kimora Lee Simmons is just a smidge over six feet, that Brigitte Nielsen, six-one, starred in a rarely viewed romantic comedy called sexy.
I nervously anticipated the crowning of the winner, a blond-banged six-foot-tall special-education teacher in four-inch heels who later told me she’d entered because she wanted to meet people. "When you’re wearing a sash and crown," she later confided to me, "people talk to you." I dug my left shoulder into the rug, contorted the lower half of my body toward the crowd and nailed the crowning shot.
After the pageant, I circulated through the crowd of cocktail drinkers, who seemed to be mingling with no purpose. It soon became apparent that tall clubs serve different purposes for different members.
Male passers-by mutter, "That was one giant woman." Men seem particularly inclined to register one characteristic: tall.
They put me in the "enormous" category and move on.