By Élan Young
Watch anyof the videos on Hunter Woodhall and Tara Davis’ YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/channel/UCIK0rlPzvgI0tCwuHrtO82w) and you’ll feel the energy between this young couple, both 19-year-old rising track stars. Woodhall, a bilateral below-knee amputee since infancy due to a congenital limb difference, worked diligently in high school to overcome low self-esteem and pursue his passion and talent as a sprinter. He was so focused that in his sophomore, junior, and senior years, he won silver and bronze medals as a Paralympic athlete and is the Utah record holder for the 400m/4x400m, as well as a five-time state champion.
Woodhall and Davis, now in college with track scholarships—Woodhall at the University of Arkansas for sprinting and Davis in a different state for hurdles—create a window into their relationship through their YouTube channel. Documenting their relationship is a way of shortening the physical distance between them while giving them something special that they can do together.
In one of their videos, they giggle their way through sharing the story of how they met—at a track meet, of course—and they not only share how Davis was the bold one to make the first move, they also encourage viewers to chase the spark of interest if they see someone who catches their eye. Woodhall says he knew right away that he was going to marry Davis, even before talking with her. In another video, Woodhall takes the audience along for a spectacular hike to a spot where he tells the audience he intends to propose. The video captures incredible drone footage and there is a sense of anticipation for a big moment. In the end, Woodall has pranked the viewers, and only a cardboard cutout of Davis is with him. Later, Woodhall speaks directly to the viewers about his love for filming and editing—and his love for Davis.
“I wanted to show you not only a genuine love for creating that I have, but a genuine love for Tara that I have. All the inspiration for this video stemmed from something that I want to do, and although I might not be ready to propose right now, it’s something that I think about all the time. And I want to be perfect when the time comes. Every once in a while, I think God put somebody in our lives that just makes us a better person overall, and for me that’s Tara and that’s been Tara since she came into my life. If you guys are lucky enough to have that person in your life, don’t ever take them for granted…. The most amazing thing you have is love.”
The decision to share their relationship with the world was mutual. Neither had large Instagram followings, but after they shared photos of each other, attention started to grow and then they began to get more questions. The decision to share a YouTube channel was a natural response to that. In their videos, Davis is most often Woodhall’s muse, but she sometimes takes the reins to shoot video and is learning to edit.
To their amazement, once they started making videos, their social following began skyrocketing. Today they have over 109,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel. “Everything we have, we built together, which shows that we’re just normal people. We met through a common interest. If we can do it, anybody can do it,” says Woodhall. On his Instagram profile, Woodhall has posted several photos of himself as a chubby kid with prosthetic legs, and he pays tribute to his mother and those who stuck with him on his journey from being an awkward, bullied kid to a track star.
Off the track, Woodhall has a special talent for the digital medium, and he feels comfortable sharing his life with a large audience, which is perhaps a useful trait for this business and marketing major. Woodhall has a knack for skillfully incorporating music and graphics to create a fun and meaningful narrative. He sometimes uses slow motion to capture emotional resonance—no matter if they are in the car or at a restaurant. For him, this is as much documentary as anything else. “It’s easy to forget the smaller moments that are so special in our lives, and if you have a canvas to be able to paint that picture and remember it and then look back on that, there’s something so cool about that—to have all those memories and adventures and things all in one place.”
In a recent vlog, Woodhall pulls out a photo album of pictures he’s captured of their adventures and says to the viewer, “These are for the future.” When asked about his passion for documenting life, he says, “There’s this recurring theme that there’s so many things in our lives that we just don’t fully take advantage of in that moment, and to be able to capture that is special. A picture doesn’t give you the full story.”
While the public might be fascinated with the couple’s romance, Woodhall and Davis also recognize that they are leaders among their peers. “I’m the type of person who hypes up the team and gets everyone involved,” says Davis. For Woodhall, he says it took some personal growth and self-confidence to see that he could be more of an example for other people. And now that their social media following has risen, they can see that what they are doing is having an impact on others.
Of course, there are comments from people who see their love as an unreachable ideal, but for the most part, they see that they are creating visibility for people to fall in love despite their differences. Their love sends a bigger message that physical differences should not and cannot stand in the way of love. As a biracial couple, they are inspiring others to look past race when considering a partner. “There is still a stigma about dating someone who is not the same race as you,” says Woodhall. “Every now and then, we’ll run into people who are opposed to us dating because of the color of our skin, but more than that we get feedback from people who say, ‘Thank you for doing this.’ Love is love. It doesn’t matter who you are.” Add Woodhall’s limb difference to the mix, and their relationship further amplifies the message that physical differences just don’t matter where love is concerned and gives people a lot of ways to relate to the couple.
It’s been more than a year since starting their YouTube channel, and the couple is having fun living in the moment without planning too far in the future or getting too caught up in the hype. Both are driven athletes and will continue pursuing their athletic goals to their fullest extent. When asked about the future, Davis responds, “Maybe one day we can be on a celebrity cooking show—not looking for anything special.”
Although their channel is a special way for them to share their love with the world, they are careful not to step into the realm of seeking fame for fame’s sake, but rather they are staying focused on the positive, empowering message that their relationship brings to people. “We try to make our channel as genuine as possible, especially with things like distance. We want to show people that not only is it amazing to be in a relationship, but from time to time things are going to be hard, and it’s not always easy, and it’s something you just have to deal with and is very natural,” says Woodhall. “With the distance, we want to show people that regardless of the situation, if you love somebody, you’ll make it work.”
The main message that Woodhall and Davis want to share with the world is that love is for everyone. No matter who you are or what your circumstances, love is always worth chancing; it’s the greatest thing in the world.
SAMPLE HUNTER AND TARA VIDEOS