Mark Laita, a filmmaker, embarked on a project to document the lives of the Whittaker family, known for their inter-family marriages and the resulting genetic defects.
Residing in Odd, West Virginia, for generations, their story captured the attention of Laita, who created a short film chronicling their day-to-day experiences.
Recently, four members of the family, namely Ray, Betty, Larry, and Lorene, visited a salon in Beckley, West Virginia, approximately 30km from their home.
Laita, with his popular YouTube channel Soft White Underbelly boasting 4.56 million subscribers, captured their incredible makeover.
At the salon, Ray and Timmy underwent fresh shaves and hair trims, while Betty and Lorene had their hair washed and styled.
Ray bid farewell to his beard, opting for a stylish mustache.
In 2020, Laita reconnected with the Whittakers, allowing for a deeper understanding of their lives. To support the family with living expenses and home improvements, Laita also established a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised approximately $72,000 thus far.
Historical records trace the Whittaker family back to twin brothers Henry and John Whittaker in 1887.
Henry married Sally Burton, and their union produced seven children, including John Emory Whittaker, born in 1913.
John, in a controversial move, married his own first cousin, Ada Riggs.
The couple had nine children, and one of them, Gracie Irene Whittaker, was born in 1920.
Gracie and John entered into marriage in 1935, welcoming their first daughter, Aileen Violet Whittaker, in 1937.
Aileen was the eldest among the 15 children born to the couple.
Communication poses a challenge for the siblings due to their conditions, often rendering them non-verbal.
Nevertheless, there is a shared understanding between the Whittakers and Laita when he engages them in conversation. A relative explains, “They understand what you’re talking about. If they don’t like it, they start yelling – let you know they don’t like that idea.”