Michele Kobke is a 24-year-old Berlin woman on a bizarre mission to achieve the world's smallest waist at 14 inches in a corset, which would match her American idol Cathie Jung.
Currently, her waist is 16 inches in a corset and 22 inches without one. She has spent the last three years eating, sleeping and living in a corset, and as a result, her waist is three inches smaller than when she started.
The health effects are so severe she has trouble standing without a corset due to muscle atrophy in her back and stomach. She also has problems breathing due to weak lungs.
"Right now I'm a little breathless, changing corsets is like a high-performance sport for me," Kobke tells Bancroft Television as she changes outfits.
Her stomach is so squished that she can only eat up to 10 small meals a day, and she gets cuts and pressure marks from wearing corsets 24 hours a day.
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Why is she doing this? Because she believes she looks more beautiful, graceful and feminine despite the fact that the real world thinks she looks unnatural and unattractive.
“I feel my movements are more womanly. I’m far more elegant and graceful,” she says.
It's a perplexing psychological phenomena -- people who are so intrenched in their own self-perceptions they are blind to reality.
"Honestly, it's not beautiful. It looks painful and the waist is too small," says a German man stopped on the street and asked for his opinion.
Despite being warned by doctors that her muscles may one day become so weak she may not be able to move at all without the corset, Kobke is determined to continue, convinced that the health consequences are not major enough to stop.
“I’m not worried about the medical implications. I would reconsider if I thought they were serious or wearing a corset could prove fatal – but, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not the case,” she says.
Kobke has lost touch with her family who disagree with her lifestyle choice.
“My family’s reaction to my tightlacing regimen is quite negative,” she tells RTL German television station. “They say that I spoil my body. But I would say that smoking and drinking alcohol are actually much worse for you, so corsets may not be healthy, but also not really unhealthy.”
“I can’t imagine to just stop one day,” she says. “The corsets have become an important part of my life. I just can’t imagine.”
What are your thoughts on Kobke's extreme corset-wearing behaviour? Does she look attractive? Are the health effects enough to warrant stopping?