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 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)