PHOTOS What condition do The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters have?

The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters 1

One of the most persistently asked questions about Discovery’s quietest reality show involves the eye condition of The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters. While Ray and Cindy Lewis spent their formative years in the lower 48 (they’re both Michigan natives), their three daughters–Molly (age 23), Emma (21), and Sarah (19)–all grew up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Unfortunately, it’s because of their unique upbringing and the unusual appearance of their eyes that some of the show’s less-than-tactful viewers wonder if the Lewis daughters are inbred. The truth is both simpler and more obvious: the daughters suffer from a genetic condition called Blepharophimosis, ptosis, epicanthus inversus syndrome (or BPES). Each of the words in the name of the condition describes a different type of abnormal growth of the eye’s opening. Blepharophimosis is a narrowing of the opening; ptosis refers to–per the National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Reference page–”droopy eyelids”; and epicanthus inversus is “an upward fold of the skin of the lower eyelid near the inner corner of the eye.”

The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters 3
The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters with Ray and Cindy in a promotional shot from 2016

Cindy Lewis was born with the gene for BPES, and she passed it down to each of her daughters. Additionally, there are two types of BPES; Type I is also believed to be linked to “an early loss of ovarian function.” It’s not known whether Cindy and her daughters carry Type I or Type II BPES, but it is somewhat unusual for all three of Ray and Cindy’s children to have the condition: according to the medical literature, there’s a 50% chance of the genes being passed from parent to child.

Molly Lewis herself responded to some of the more thoughtless and mean-spirited comments about her family in a Last Alaskans Q&A a couple of years ago. Given the circumstances, she was pretty restrained:

Hi, this is Molly Lewis from the show. Thank you to all of you who have posted positive comments in our defense! They’re encouraging and it’s nice to know there’s people out there who get out of the show what’s supposed to be. But to the rest of you on the other side of the discussion — come on, get a life! Honestly I feel sorry for you. Can’t you enjoy the show for what it is? It’s a shame that all you seem to be taking away from it is the subject of our eyes. If it had anything to do with the topic of the show it would be addressed. Everyone has their flaws, ours are just more obvious than others. I’m sorry if it looks weird to some of you, but that’s your problem. Most of you all have “normal” eyes so why does it matter to you so much? Don’t you have anything better to do with your lives than worry about others’? Our mom was was born with the gene ( the only one in her family) and it was passed onto the three of us. It’s the way God chose to make us and we accept it. If you aren’t satisfied with that response than that’s your issuse. I don’t know what else to say.

The Last Alaskans Season 3 airs Wednesday nights on Discovery.

(Photo credits: The Last Alaskans Lewis daughters via Discovery on Facebook)

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  • jeff

    I don’t watch the show, but I know that if I found out I had a 50% chance to pass on a disability to my kid, I wouldn’t have kids. One kid? Sure, we found out we have this gene but we’ll make the best of it… but to roll the dice again, then AGAIN? Come on, that’s just irresponsible. And don’t hide behind ‘God’ saying it was meant to be either, that’s just a red-herring cop-out.

    • Bruja

      I said this same damn thing to my husband just now after reading this article (except I said something about a 50% chance of d!ck bring attached to each forehead) and he said , “they needed more physical laborers“.

      I have a cat that has eyelid conditions. Both top and bottom lids, usually conditions that are either/or. She needs meds constantly. It sucks. Sometimes, she hurts. I can’t imagine purposely subjecting someone/something to a life altering issue like this.

      • Brie Mode

        Better not mate with that cat then. XD

    • twelfthnight

      Is there a line for you, out of curiosity? Are there disabilities you would chance passing down, or are all disabilities out of the question? Are mental disabilities or illnesses different, and to what degree?

      I ask because I previously felt the same way, but my boyfriend has ADHD and tourettes, both of which are genetically passed down (I think the tourettes rate is about 50%) and if we have children together, we will ‘chance’ them inheriting those.

      It was more his call than mine, as he’s the one who lived with it. His general thoughts are that he’s fine, it made things a little tougher or he had to find different ways to do things, but with the right support he’s as normal as anybody else. You wouldn’t know he had either of them now, he’s able to cope with it very well.

      I would not biologically have children if I knew they’d have something that would never allow them to have a normal life, though.

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    • Brie Mode

      I say this about older women popping out crotch fruit. My mom had me at 39. I could’ve had Downs.

      But not so much as that as it’s just selfish. Your nugget is gonna be planning your funeral at 20. Not fair.

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        • Brie Mode

          lmao It was partially serious, but I meant for that to be funny xD

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    Well this is wtf happens when your mom and dad are each other’s siblings, cousins, and aunt and uncle all at the same time 😳

  • Guest

    Breeding when you knowingly have a genetic condition is so damn selfish.

  • Mike Hicks

    Are any of you God!! I dont think any of you have any right to say anything about what the Mom did. Can you read there is a chance can pass it down. And it does not hurt them at all. So these young women have eye’s that are a bit different then yours wow that’s so bad. These girls don’t have a problem with it so why do you. Clean you’re own back yard out before talking about someone else. Remember God don’t like ugly. I love the show and that family I wish they stay on the show one of my favorite family…

  • YourMom

    The defect doesnt seem to cause anykind of serious disability. They just have a unique features. Mom had every right to have her children. She knew her children can grow up to have normal lives independently whether they have the gene or not. People tend to dislike it when the “norm” is changed. Remember “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos to the fly.”-Charles Addams

  • Larry Cline

    Im disgusted at the people with mean spirited comments. I don’t see the issue except for the terrible people making bad comments. I will watch the show hoping the family is still on it. It would be great to meet them. I’m a big fan of theirs and others on the show.

  • Cissy Hickey

    What is wrong with people? The Lewis girls are beautiful, intelligent young girls who work hard with their parents and enjoy life to the fullest. There was no reason for their parents not to have children just because they have this eye condition. It doesn’t affect them mentally or physically from living a wonderful life. I’m like Molly if that’s all you can see in this show then you need to watch something else. You go ladies, I think you are beautiful and I enjoy you on the show!!!!!!!