A bearded woman made her debut in a catwalk show. Harnaam Kaaur, 25, has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a hormone imbalance disorder which causes her to grow excess facial hair. She hit the headlines earlier this month after becoming the first “bearded lady” to hit the runway for celebrity jewellery designer Marianna Harutunian at the Royal Fashion Day in London.
Speaking to The Sun, Harnaam said: “I’m always stepping out of the norm. My beard to me is like sticking the middle finger up at a society who think women should look a certain way. “But here I am totally wrecking stereotypes, rules and regulations.” Describing her stage moment, she said: “It was a huge statement for people to know that we are regular people as well, we shouldn’t be sidelined, we’re not freaks and we can work it like any other person.”
Harnaam was just 11 when she was diagnosed with the PCOS - at the same time she hit puberty, but initially she had no idea what the syndrome was. “I actually thought I was dying of a very rare disease,” Harnaam recalled.
PCOS, triggers high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ovarian cysts and fertility issues in women. The condition had a huge impact on Harnaam’s body as she started to gain weight and thick hair began sprouting on her face. She endured a childhood of relentless taunts and was beaten up because of the way she looked.
“To be honest, I didn’t really notice I had facial hair until the bullies started taunting me about it,” she said. “I remember going home one day and looking in the mirror - then it became more apparent to me that I did have hair growing there.”
she said: “It was absolutely horrendous because the wax burnt my skin as it was very sensitive. My skin was torn and bleeding. I was left with a lot of burn marks from the wax as well. “I literally tried everything and anything I could to remove my facial hair. I was way too young at that time to get electrolysis or even think about laser treatment.”
“People used to walk past me buzzing – making the noise an electric razor makes. Looking back at it now, I can just laugh about everything that has happened. “But back then when you’re bullied daily and going into school was like ‘doomsday’ for you, it was horrible.”
Her turning point came at the age of 16, when she decided to adopt a positive attitude and chose not to give up on herself. “I was fed up of the taunts. I decided enough is enough I don’t want to be bullied anymore. “I told myself, there was no way I’m going to kill myself just because of other people’s opinion, so instead of throwing myself into negative energy, I decided to embrace my body and find self love.”
She learned to accept her bearded look and is now a body-confidence and an anti-bullying activist who hopes to encourage other women to do the same. “For me having a beard is a sense of empowerment and strength to show people that you can be different and still love yourself and embrace yourself."
Born into a Sikh family, Harnaam said her family were worried at first about her modelling career. “It’s not something that an Indian woman really does, so it was a bit shocking for them that I chose this path. But they hear the message that I have for people, so they support me.”
The plus size model, who has more than 57,000 followers on Instagram, admits she still gets trolled online. “With anything good that you do, there is obviously going to be negatives,” she said. “My one rule I live by is ‘it’s my body, my rules’, so if anyone’s got an opinion that’s their opinion – and it’s not going to change my life.
“I know that I have a bigger purpose in life than these people trolling me.” She hopes her work allows other people to find the strength like she has to embrace their bodies and be themselves.