Shauna Rae: 10 Facts About The TLC Star

As much as we hate to admit it, first impressions based on physical appearance weigh heavily on how others perceive us. Though looks are often misleading, it can be hard to let go of the snap judgments made when we meet someone for the first time or encounter new faces in the media. To make matters even more complicated, our outward appearance also determines the ease or difficulty with which we navigate our lives. TLC star Shauna Rae found herself in the spotlight for that very reason.

Rae is a woman in her mid-20s attempting to make her way through the maze of emerging adulthood, but her journey is a bit more challenging than most. Though mentally, intellectually, and emotionally, she is on par with her peers, Rae is an adult who never grew past the size of an average eight-year-old due to her medical condition. As a result, she constantly fights through barrages of inaccurate first impressions and seemingly endless inconveniences in her effort to lead a regular life.

Despite her difficulties, Rae powers through run-ins with narrow-minded people, physical obstacles, and the mental hardships of living in a body she is still learning to love and accept. Her show, "I Am Shauna Rae," has captured the attention of thousands of TLC's viewers whilst simultaneously cultivating intrigue in the everyday goings-on of a person facing her particular set of trials and tribulations, so here are 10 facts you might not have known about Shauna Rae.

Her small stature was caused by cancer

In the pilot episode of "I Am Shauna Rae," Shauna Rae gives viewers some context about her medical condition and a brief history of how she has been coping with its consequences up to that moment. Her health struggles began in her infancy when, at the age of six months, Rae's parents discovered a tumor growing on the back of her head. Being concerned about the potential dangers the growth might entail, they shared their worries with medical professionals, and Rae was subsequently diagnosed with brain cancer. She went through over two years of chemotherapy until she was deemed cancer-free.

A couple of years later, her family noticed that Rae was significantly smaller than her peers, which brought their worries for her health to the forefront once again. At that point, doctors diagnosed her with a severely underactive pituitary gland, which meant that her rate of growth hormone production was incredibly slow. Rae was prescribed supplementary growth hormones, but at the age of 16, she was informed by her doctors that she would not grow anymore. Her official diagnosis is pituitary dwarfism.

Rae told People that when she learned she would stop growing as a teenager, her mental health was also greatly impacted. "It probably was the lowest time of my life, because I always imagined that I would be tall. And getting that news, it just kind of was like a hammer crashing into glass," Rae admitted. 

She is close with her family

Shauna Rae enjoys an affectionate and largely supportive connection with her family members, but that doesn't mean that these relationships are conflict-free.

Her mother and stepfather, though loving, are overbearing by Rae's standards, and they sometimes struggle to accept that Rae is no longer a child and that she possesses the desire to act in accordance with her own whims. However, Rae acknowledges and praises the unwavering love and support they have offered her as she struggles to find her footing in the world of adults.

Of all her siblings, Rae is closest with her younger sister, Rylee. "She's like my best friend. She is my support system," Rae explained on her show. The two spend the most time together as they both live in their parents' home on Long Island. Rae also has an older sister, Tara, whom she does love, but they have a seemingly more tumultuous relationship. Rae gives a cautious description of Tara in the introductory episode. "She's lovely," she states, adding, "She's very independent. She's just stubborn, and she's very opinionated, and her opinions are strong." Their parents believe that Rae harbors some resentment toward Tara due to her ability to lead a more normal life in the absence of any medical issues, but Rae combats this description of envy and clarifies that she doesn't aspire to have Tara's life. Despite their differences and commonplace, sisterly bickering, the two get along relatively well.

She wants to use her show to raise awareness for people with disabilities

Viewers' reception of Shauna Rae was largely accepting, and she is glad that sharing her experience allowed her to connect with people whom she may have otherwise never met.

When asked in an interview with Hollywood Life about the responses she has garnered from fans, Rae's response was, "I'm actually really grateful to TLC because of this. I didn't know anyone with my form of dwarfism. I didn't even know another cancer survivor besides immediate family ... Because the show came out, people have reached out ... I found other people who struggle just on an emotional level that I've met with, and it's actually been a really positive experience."

Rae has been outspoken about the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, and she seeks to use her platform to be an advocate for those who have been marginalized because of conditions that are out of their control. She recently posted an explanatory video to TikTok, where she took a moment to state her intentions. She divulged, "I'm hoping with the 'I Am Shauna Rae' show and anything else via social media that I can bring awareness to this because I am not the only person with pituitary dwarfism. I am not the only human being out there that feels like they didn't have many people like them feeling similar, so I think it can help a lot of people."

She is developing a size-inclusive clothing line

On the show, Shauna Rae struggles fiercely with finding clothing that is age-appropriate, the right size, and also suited to her style tastes. In an effort to make fashion more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities, she is creating a line of clothing that meets all of her needs. In February 2023, she took to Instagram to reveal an outfit prototype from the line. The two-piece set features a fitted, sleeveless, mock-neck crop top and high-waisted capris with attachable flairs that connect to the pant leg with stylish gold snaps. Rae modeled the off-white combo in her post, striking a few poses, showing different angles, and even rollerskating across the screen to show off the movement of the leg flares.

In the caption for the post, Rae invites her followers to participate in the development of the clothing line by direct messaging her their measurements so that she can expand the sizing for interested parties and make the products as inclusive as possible. People noted in an article about the star's fashion aspirations that she has considered the possibility of attending the Fashion Institute of Technology to enhance her knowledge of the industry and earn a degree in fashion to help her brand.

This new facet of her career also expands Rae's career options in the event that she decides to leave the world of television.

Why did Shauna Rae sign on to be a reality TV star?

Money has never been cited as one of Rae's motivators for signing on with TLC, but even so, her earnings from the show are nothing to scoff at. According to Distractify, it's alleged that Rae earns between $10,000 to $15,000 per episode of "I Am Shauna Rae." The article also states that her net worth is around $100,000.

Though over $10,000 per episode would be enough to tempt most people to share their lives on national television, Rae confessed in an interview with "The Tamron Hall Show" that she was motivated to do her series for the purpose of representation and to increase the visibility of disabled people in the media. Rae told Hall, "I wanted to do the show because growing up, I didn't see anyone like me ... I want to show anyone who feels different or feels like they were put in a category, to show them that they can bust out of that category despite what anyone thinks. And no matter what, there's always going to be someone out there that is supportive of you and wants you to do the best."

Her dating life is definitely complicated

Dating in your mid-twenties is difficult enough for people without disabilities, but Shauna Rae confirms that dating with her medical condition takes the struggle to a whole new level. In the pilot of "I Am Shauna Rae," she describes her plight by saying, "I attract creeps, a-holes, and idiots."

Though the hardships of romance have made Rae's journey a rocky one, she has developed a very mature mentality on the subject. She told an interviewer with Hollywood Life, "When it comes to dating, my perception is it'll happen when it happens. I am very focused on me and getting my life together ... You kind of should be your own individual person first. So I'm really working on that and if someone comes along, I won't pass them up."

She was briefly romantically involved with British-Welsh travel blogger Dan Swygart, but the two never declared themselves as an official couple, and they mutually decided that it would be best to remain just friends. The pair had an amiable emotional connection with one another, and Swygart was even featured in a few episodes of the show. However, some fans who could not comprehend his attraction to Rae because of her youthful appearance were highly critical of Swygart. He defended their relationship on Instagram, stating, "How dare you take away her right, her human right, to have a connection, a friendship, a relationship with someone else?" Despite the controversy, Rae and Swygart are still very good friends. 

She constantly deals with people who don't believe she is an adult

Whether she's at bars, running errands, or generally out and about, Shauna Rae constantly has to deal with people who question her age. Even after providing ID, there have been multiple cases where people refuse to believe that she is a legal adult. The pilot of "I Am Shauna Rae" portrays a classic scenario of Rae's frequent encounters with people who harbor misconceptions about her age when she tries to seat herself at a restaurant bar to have brunch with her sisters, and she is promptly scolded by the bartender who tells her that it is illegal for children to sit at the bar. 

Rae recounted one especially traumatic experience in an interview with the New York Post, stating that she had gone to a doctor's office alone, and the individuals working there would not let her leave without being escorted by a parent or guardian because they absolutely refused to believe that she was as old as she said she was. Even after she showed the employees her body modifications and volunteered to show them her ID as evidence of her age, they would not budge.

"They all denied the fact that I was an adult, and they would not let me leave the property without an adult to take me home. It got to the point where I had to leave when they weren't looking." she told the interviewer, "It was so extreme."

She wants to be independent

The theme of independence, and Shauna Rae's ability (or lack thereof) to pursue it, commonly reappears throughout "I Am Shauna Rae," especially when she refers to her relationship with her mother and stepfather. Rae acknowledges that her parents' concern arises from a place of love and fear for her safety, but the power struggle between the two parties is a consistent stressor throughout the show.

Rae is a free spirit, but it is difficult for her to spread her wings not only because of the way she looks but also because of her financial limitations. As stated previously, Rae earns thousands of dollars per episode of the show, but that still isn't quite enough for her to rely on for all of the expenses that would accompany living on her own.

In regard to finances and career choices, she often toggles with her options, but due to her medical condition, she finds herself hesitant to commit to one course of action. She has considered moving to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, but she admitted in an interview with People, "The city is just a place right now that causes me huge anxiety ... when you're in a place that's going to point out your difference every day, maybe multiple times a day, it's just hard to put yourself in that kind of mindset."

She has meaningful tattoos

Body modifications serve as a way for Shauna Rae to "show" her age, but her tattoos are not purely utilitarian. Rae stated in an episode from Season 1 of the show that all her tattoos have special meanings, and she wouldn't get one that didn't have any emotional significance. "It may help me look older, but at the end of the day, I have my tattoos for personal reasons. I have them to help me carry on moments in my life," Rae told People in an interview about body art and lifestyle choices.

She sports four tattoos that commemorate important milestones and individuals. On her back, she has two elephants sitting face to face with their trunks intertwined in the shape of a ribbon. The elephants and their surroundings are colored with a soft wash of simple colors that resemble nostalgic illustrations from children's books. The ribbon formed by the trunks pays homage to her battle with cancer in her early childhood. Her forearm tattoo, which features two doves, was inspired by a jewelry box that was given to her by her grandmother. The polar bear on her ribs is an expression of self-representation. She explains, "I think I'm like a polar bear because they look so cute and cuddly, but ... they will attack any other polar bear they see. I think I'm the same way with humans." Her most recent tattoo is a memorial piece for her mother's father, as of this writing.

She is diving deeper into her fertility journey

Due to Shauna Rae's small stature and low weight (she stands at 3 feet and 10 inches tall and weighs approximately 50 pounds), medical professionals are up in the air about how safe it would be for her to carry a child to term, even if she is able to conceive. Though she has gone through puberty, there are also hormonal complications that come into play in the discussion of fertility for Shauna Rae. She has stated that she is uncertain whether or not she'll ever want to be a mom, but she wants to give herself the option to do so if she ever puts her mind to it.

In her interview with Hollywood Life, Rae responded to a prompt concerning the relatability and importance of fertility discussions and complications among women saying, "I think it's important for everyone, especially cancer patients. A lot of cancer patients don't know that chemotherapy affects fertility, and then dwarfism, of course, affects fertility ... I don't think enough of that is discussed."

In the same interview, Rae also confirmed that it was a possibility that she might freeze her eggs, though that course of action would be contingent upon her body's response to the AMH hormone treatment she is currently undergoing and her ovarian reserve level.