A self-dubbed ‘natural born freak’ has revealed her joints are so bendy that she can tie herself in knots and fit her entire body through a tennis racket!
Scarlet Checkers has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a rare condition affecting her connective tissue, which means she can dislocate her joints on command and manipulate her body into seemingly impossible positions.
The 22-year-old has even made a career of her hyper-flexibility, performing as a circus contortionist and daring audience members to pick two parts of her body which they think she won’t be able to touch together – a game she’s never lost.
She can also pull her skin away from her face and body to stick skewers through it.
At the end of each show, she receives tips by asking people to staple dollar bills to her flesh.
‘I like to take advantage of my symptoms, they’ve become my party trick, and they pay for my living,’ says Scarlet, from San Diego, California.
‘I like to do things that are a little grotesque and hard to look at – things that people can’t get out of their minds.’
For years, Scarlet didn’t realise she had EDS, and thought she was just flexible.
At school, her PE teacher would make her demonstrate stretching moves in front of her class because of her incredible mobility.
Then, aged 18, she began to practise contortionism.
Through this, she met a man with type 7 EDS whose veins and organs were stretched, which led her to think that she, too, had it.
After researching her symptoms – which include being able to dislocate her finger, toe, ankle and shoulder joints – Scarlet now believes she has the milder type 3 version of the condition and is waiting for an official diagnosis.
Some people with EDS find their joints dislocate independently and at multiple times throughout the day against their will.
But she is lucky in that, on the whole, she can control her joints.
‘I can dislocate my right shoulder comfortably and that doesn’t hurt, and my right hip pops out.
‘Sometimes people ask me to perform a trick and ask me lots of questions about it.’
As part of Scarlet’s act she pushes hyperdermic needles through her cheeks and forehead, then pulls them out while mid-contortion.
‘I’ve got used to the pain so it doesn’t hurt now. In fact, I enjoy it,’ she says. ‘I like the feel of sharp objects in my skin. I like to see people’s reaction to it.’
As much as she loves performing, though, she is aware that it could potentially worsen her condition.
‘It could lead to arthritis, chronic joint pain and mobility problems. I know there’s a danger. But I won’t stop performing,’ she insists.
‘I love it and even plan to add sword swallowing to my act.’