*Editor’s note: This article has been updated to make mention of Harnaam’s religious beliefs.
This takes strength. Harnaam Kaur has opted to say ‘to hell’ with prevailing beauty and gender standards and keep her beard, which is a result of polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance which leads to, among other things, excessive levels of androgen that produce male pattern hair growth. The decision to keep her beard isn’t just personal, it’s religious. Since being baptized Sikh Harnaam has not cut her hair and beard because it is forbidden. But before this the 24-year-old tried many hair removal methods, but they led to skin damage;
“I started to wax my facial hair, tweeze it off, thread it off,” she says. “I shaved every day and I even used hair removing creams. My skin became very rough, I was left with scabs, and parts of my skin were torn off when I was waxing.”
Bullying was a daily reality for Harnaam, at one point leading her to seriously contemplate suicide;
One day I decided to actually go ahead with ending my life,” she says. “I had the pills there ready.”
But she instead opted to move forward, living life on her own terms and becoming an anti-bullying and body positive activist.
I thought about all the negative energy and strength that it actually takes to want to end your own life,” says the Berkshire, England, native. “I decided to turn all that negative energy into positive energy, and grasp hold of life. I wanted to live a happy life, and I made the decision to keep my beard and accept my body for the way it was formed.”
Harnaam’s Instagram account currently has 21,000 followers and she regularly posts pictures that juxtapose her feminine style with her full beard.
In an Instagram post from earlier this year, Harnaam reflected on what she went through to look ‘normal’;
Here is my #beforeandafterbeardseason picture. It may not be exactly before beard season, but the before picture is when i was 13 years old. I had actually just had my whole face threaded..ouuccchhh!! It was painful. We work tooo hard to look beautiful, we go through tooooo much pain to look normal, when as a matter of fact, we are already pretty amazingly beautiful. You can tell how unconfident i was without the facial hair, compared to how i look and feel in my #project60 portrait.
Wow. If I’m speaking honestly, I don’t know if I would have the guts to do what Harnaam has done if faced with the choice. I salute her for living life on her own terms and defining beauty for herself.
Ladies, what are your thoughts?