Harnaam Kaur: the bearded dame
ABC News 6 hrs ago
© Twitter/@RadioNational Harnaam Kaur,
‘I love my beard. I say it with pride. I am fist pumping the air right now. I love my beard, I can't describe to you how much strength she has given me, just to be who I am.’
Harnaam Kaur loves her ‘lady beard’, and the enthusiasm is infectious.
Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome at age 11, the British teacher’s aide and anti-bullying campaigner began sprouting facial hair as a teenager.
It was the bullies who made me aware about the changes to my face and the hair that I'd grown.
While the bubbly 24-year-old now proudly describes herself as a ‘bearded dame’, she was severely bullied at school.
‘It was the bullies who made me aware about the changes to my face and the hair that I'd grown,’ she says.
‘Going into school every day was a horrible ordeal and I hated school, I didn’t like education. My friends were supportive to a point, but I felt that they didn't understand truly what I was going through.’
While polycystic ovary syndrome, the hormone imbalance responsible for Kaur’s facial hair, is relatively common—affecting 5 to 10 per cent of women aged 18 to 44—she felt completely alone.
She tried everything to remove the hair: shaving, using creams, threading and waxing twice a week. The process left her face covered in scabs, and children taunted her about ‘being a man’. She was depressed, anxious and suicidal.
Finally, aged just 16, she decided that enough was enough.
‘It was actually during the summer holidays that I decided to keep my beard,’ she says. ‘When school started, the reaction that I got from children was mind numbing because the taunts came and it was a daily ordeal.’
Born into a Sikh family, Kaur embraced her faith—which forbids the removal of bodily hair—as she began to grow her beard: ‘For me at the age of 16, when I did decide to be baptised and I had to keep the hair, it just fitted in with my life and I fell in love with my religion.’
Today Kaur is happy and at ease with herself—you can hear it. Though she’s proud of her beard, she distances herself from the tradition of freak show bearded ladies.
‘There is a bearded woman out there that I know who does a lot of freak shows and she's amazing,’ says Kaur. ‘She sings well and she does all these tricks, she's fantastic. But for me I think my life is totally different, I don't see that any woman is a freak.’
Despite her difficult time as a teenager, Kaur now works as a teacher’s aide. Her hope is that her presence will teach the children she works with about diversity and make them more open minded.
She has also been the face of Labels, an anti-bullying campaign and video. This year she appeared as part of Project 60, a series of portraits of bearded men by photographer Brock Elbank designed to raise awareness for melanoma.
‘It was really empowering to see my picture up there with all of these bearded men, and to be the only woman it was amazing,’ she says.
‘If the 11 year old Harnaam was at Somerset House looking at all these beards I think she would be quite shocked. I try looking at myself now as a more confident woman and I've left the 11-year-old Harnaam Kaur behind. She went through a lot of stuff and for me to actually come to this point now where I've empowered myself and I love my body for the way it is.’
*What an awesome, incredible, beautiful young lady.. and what an epic wookie beard she has .. i LOVE her, i absolutely love her!