There’s a much-ballyhooed law of the internet that if something exists, there is pornography inspired by it. That no matter what weird or seemingly banal thing you can think of, somebody out there is getting their jollies to it. But that concept has a (presumably) cleaner doppelganger: that no matter how cripplingly boring a subject may seem, thousands are furiously talking about it in the depths of the web.
Founded in 2004, Celeb Heights is the brainchild of a cheery Glaswegian named Rob Paul, who writes on the site that he has been a tenacious chronicler of celebrity heights since the age of 14, when he unexpectedly stopped growing. He stands (officially, with pictures and everything) at 5’ 8.75”, and has posted videos on YouTube instructing the best ways to pose with celebrities to prove their respective heights.
But Celeb Heights isn’t some measly one-man operation. It is in fact a terrifyingly gargantuan community for the height obsessed, where thousands have congregated for over a decade to swap tales of personal encounters with famous faces, source photos that either prove or disprove quoted guesses of celeb measurements and furiously debate whether or not Amanda Holden is indeed 5’ 4” as she claims.
Holden is barely skimming the surface of said database, however, with every vaguely famous celebrity you can think of being endlessly dissected in regards to their height.
Take Dennis Waterman, an actor never on the tips of many people’s tongues these days, but who is one of the many stars responsible for the very active discussions on the site. Likely unhelped by a Little Britain sketch that depicted him as extremely small, Waterman is the subject of much consternation between Celeb Heights users, with members swapping personal anecdotes and seemingly random hypotheses in an attempt to solve the mystery of just how tall he is.
“I once met Dennis Waterman at a football match,” writes a user known as A Giant Among Men. “I was expecting him to be quite tall considering the hard man roles he played in his early career. I managed to get myself stood next to him at the bar but was disappointed to find he was smaller than me.”
Others are kinder: “In around 1987 I walked past Dennis Waterman and Rula Lenska [on the] South Bank, and he seemed taller than [5’ 8”] at the time – I would have put him about 5’ 10/11”.”
The sad irony to all of this, recognised by the majority of the site’s users, is that heights constantly fluctuate. Not only is it likely that the 69-year-old Dennis Waterman has slightly shrunk since his Minder heyday, but human heights also change throughout the day. As Celeb Heights like to remind readers, there are such things as “morning heights” and “evening heights,” with our bodies extending by up to two centimetres during sleep, and then slowly decreasing through the day.
Unexpected Celeb Heights mysteries Dennis Waterman and Rula Lenska CREDIT: FIONA HANSON/PA WIRE
So, hypothetically, a paparazzi shot of Tom Cruise - who was recently dropped from the Jack Reacher franchise for being "too short" - heading to the corner shop in his flip-flops to pick up a pint of milk is a far greater indicator of his height than the movie premiere he attends later that night.
This aimlessness doesn’t stop debate, however. Cruise in particular is a multi-faceted Celeb Heights conundrum, with obsessives not only having to contend with speculation about his actual height, but the mystery of whether he employs lifts in his shoes, coupled with a media-driven narrative that has painted him as a diminutive man.
“People… have been brainwashed by the media,” one user writes. “Sometimes once someone gets an idea in their head, it will influence anything they see. The fact that Tom has had three wives taller than him, or much taller in Nicole [Kidman’s] case, has helped fuel the perception... People probably don’t even stop to think about this and use logic.”
Katie Holmes and (the allegedly diminutive) Tom Cruise in 2005 CREDIT: JONATHAN LODGE
So why do thousands of readers flock to Celeb Heights daily? Despite there being no such thing as a truly definitive height, and the apparently rampant use of artificial lifts in the celebrity world. The answer may be found in the profile of Harry Styles. Unlike the majority of online communities driven by celebrities, the Celeb Heights comment sections appear unusually dominated by heterosexual males, while the most endlessly picked-over celebrities are men: your Biebers, your Efrons and your Kit Haringtons.
But take a venture into the comments section of Styles’s entry, and you’ll quickly surmise that much of the discussion revolves around Taylor Swift, Styles’s one-time paramour. Swift is often spoken of in the context that she, as another apparently tall person, is a strong point of comparison when it comes to speculating about Styles’s own height.
But there’s also a recurring theme of emasculation throughout the discussion, as if Styles would be slightly demeaned as a heterosexual male if his girlfriend were taller than him. Those who claim that Styles is taller than Swift are quickly written off as fantasists, while others claim he has the “look” of a man who would wear lifts in his shoes.
Harry Styles, who appears significantly shorter than Prince Harry CREDIT: EAMONN M MCCORMACK/PA WIRE
“He is obviously very insecure about height for some reason,” one user writes. “Would not surprise me if he extended his body with surgery next.”
Others are more eager to gloat, claiming Styles’s apparently over-inflated height is part of a conspiracy amongst boybands and those with significant teenage girl fanbases: “I bet Bieber, One Direction, and 5 Seconds of Summer all exaggerate their height by 6 cm, yes all of them and every member. Harry’s never been over 5’ 9.25” and he never will be. Don’t forget to add Zac Efron, the Jonas Brothers and Timberlake/NSYNC to my list. Such dishonest men about their height and probably other things.”
Every so often, Paul writes about this phenomenon. It’s been most noticeable in the aftermath of a Celeb Heights scandal in which a prolific user of the site, who often supplied candid photographs of himself posing with celebrities he’d pestered on the street, repeatedly posted that he was 5’ 8” in stature, a claim many of the site’s users insisted to be untrue.
Celeb Heights members debating the stature of Kit Harington
After raging on for several years, Paul met the gentleman in person during a trip to New York, where he measured him twice using his personal stadiometer – a piece of medical equipment used to measure human height. Like the end of a particularly dull courtroom drama, Paul discovered that his online rival wasn’t in fact 5’ 8”… and instead somewhere between 5’ 6.5” and 5’ 7”. Now exposed, the man in question was booted from the site.
“Trying to build a credible site and having a big photo contributor be economical with the truth with regards to his own stature, did do some damage the site,” Paul wrote. “He can claim whatever he wants, but if you take part in a site in which people are putting trust/faith in your estimates/encounters and are telling people you are 5 ft 8 when you are really in 5’ 6.5-7” zone, it is a big matter of importance.”
When asked by puzzled commentators for his thoughts on the motivation behind this height hoax, Paul’s theory was succinct: “Some people like to claim something they are not for an ego boost, to seemingly impress others, or in rare cases have convinced themselves they are taller than they really are.”
That someone would go to such lengths to lie about an extra half an inch, or that such effort was put into disproving their claim, isn’t entirely shocking when it comes to the weirder corners of the internet. But it does speak to the site’s relationship with the truth, and how height doesn’t just mean bodily measurements, but whether you’re at all trustworthy as an individual.
In the world of Celeb Heights, measurements are the equivalent of a marriage vow, a statement of fact that, if broken, entirely destroys a relationship that is supposed to be founded on honesty. So when Taylor Swift says in an interview that she is 5’ 11”, and then claims a year later that she is 5’ 10”, it’s not a simple mistake, or that she doesn’t really care that much about her own height. It’s because she’s lying.
“You can’t get round [Swift] lying?” one user asked. “Then how to explain Grant Gustin claiming 6’ 2”, [despite being] shorter than Robbie Amell, who claims 6’ 1”. Dwayne Johnson, who now claims 6’ 4.5”, who is exactly the same height as Brandon Routh, who claims 6’ 2.5” and looks it. Or Taylor Swift being shorter than 5’ 8.5” Blake Lively, even though she wore elevated boots and Blake only flat sneakers? Yeah, it can’t be. Probably everyone else is lying about their height except them.”
For Paul and, to be fair, many of those intimately involved in height fandom, celebrity measurements appear to be a funny curiosity, one that’s sort of wacky and arguably redundant, but largely harmless in the grand scheme of things.
But the site is also an unexpected rabbit hole of male insecurity, where height is the ultimate symbol of masculinity, virility and apparent sex appeal, and nothing is more emotionally satisfying than spending a couple of hours a day belittling a pop star for being a few centimetres shorter than his girlfriend. Everyone does need a hobby.