Self-declared 'armless freak' becomes TikTok sensation with 15million viewers

A disabled man who calls himself the ‘Armless Freak’ after being born with missing limbs has become an internet sensation by making fun of his own appearance. Colby Van Voorhis, 24, has shot to fame on video sharing site TikTok and has attracted 80,000 followers who have watched clips on his @armlessfreak profile a total of 15 million times.

Colby, from Syracuse, New York, was born with a rare genetic disorder which meant several of his bones did not develop properly – or at all – during pregnancy. The defect, which affects fewer than 1 in 100,000 births, resulted in Colby being born with no arm bones at all and his hands connected directly to his torso close to his shoulder blades.

Colby was also born without knee joints, and decided the best people to help people relax around him was to crack jokes about the things that set him apart.

College student, Colby, said: ‘I make jokes about myself and I gave myself the armless freak name in middle school. I know I am a bit freaky looking and the videos are my way of making people feel comfortable being around me.

‘I accept myself for who I am and I want to encourage people to look past what they see. I learned I have got to live my life how I want to and not live it how other people think you should.

‘I like making people laugh, it keeps my mood up and it makes other people feel good too. When you’re someone like me you’ve got to learn to laugh at yourself because people will say dumb things regardless, and life is too short to be sad about what other people think.

‘People can’t offend me because I know how I look and I’m happy with it. I hate it when people say they feel sorry for me. Why should I feel sorry for myself? There are people who have to deal with a lot worse than me.’

Colby is one of eight children to parents, Patricia and Gary Van Voorhis, and was adopted as a baby. He said his biological parents took the decision to put him up for adoption so he could be brought up by a family ‘better equipped’ to manage his complex medical needs.

He was born with a condition called thrombocytopenia-absent radius syndrome (TAR), which is characterized by the absence of bones in a baby’s arms, as well as missing knee joints. That meant Colby didn’t start walking until he was six.

Colby said he feels ‘lucky’ to have never been bullied for the way he looks during his school years but does often notice people staring or pointing at him when he’s in public, he said.

Despite his obvious physical disadvantages Colby is able to feed, dress and bathe himself to live an independent life and happy life. He has devised his own unique ways of moving around the house and climbing stairs and has said he’s grateful for what he is able to do.

‘I face everyday challenges but I have learned to adapt and at the end of the day, this is all I’ve ever know’, said Colby.

‘Ever since day one I have worked at making life as easy as I can for myself and a lot of people are surprised by what I can do. There’s no reason for people to have pity for me because I m able to do a lot and am very happy.

‘I have never felt embarrassed to go out and I don’t mind when little kids point and stare, it’s just because they are curious and I like to answer questions. I have had the odd person point and laugh but I don’t let that stuff bother me.’

Colby decided to sign up to video sharing platform, TikTok, at the beginning of this year. It lets users create short videos set to music, with on-screen graphics also available to help tell a user’s story.

Colby’s profile, @armlessfreak, has 81,200 followers and his 25 videos have a combined 15 million views. His clips largely involve him creating videos mocking his own appearance or showing people how he performs day-to-day tasks, like climbing the stairs or throwing a frisbee.

Colby, who is only 4ft 1in tall, added: ‘Anyone can make a difference to the world, however small. People tell me I am an inspiration but I am just living my life.

‘I have never moped around or felt sad about how I look because my condition has made me who I am. I have fun with my videos and it’s a good way for me to be an advocate for other people like me who might not be as confident.

‘The videos have been very well received as a whole on TikTok, you always get the odd wise guy who says something, but I just give them some back!

‘I know that I am popular on there because I am different. My videos aren’t the best on TikTok, but I stand out and people are interested in how I look.

‘Everyone has insecurities but you can’t let them stop you from living your life.’

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