Bearded woman, bombarded with abuse and death threats, challenges perception of beauty

Harnaam Kaur
"School was hell on earth for me," said Harnaam Kaur who was diagnosed with PCOS Credit: BPM Media

A bearded woman who gets bombarded with abuse and death threats is challenging perceptions of beauty and urging everyone to be comfortable in their own skin.

Harnaam Kaur, from Slough in Berkshire, was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) aged 12.

The condition can affect as many as one in 10 women and one in every two South Asian women and has a wide range of symptoms including irregular periods, weight changes, acne, and hair growth.

Excessive hair growth is something Harnaam experienced for a number of years after facial hair first grew in Year 6 at primary school.

"There’s always going to be something that people are going to mock you about and, unfortunately for me, it was not just the fact that I had gained a lot of weight, but I had facial hair too. I did look a lot more ‘odd’ than the other girls in my class," Harnaam said.

"I stuck out like a sore thumb, so it was easy for people to harass me.

"I was very vulnerable - I knew I looked different.

"It’s just, unfortunately, the ripple effect that it had, even now," she added.

Harnaam Kaur says the bullying she faced in earlier life still affects her today Credit: BPM Media

Harnaam dealt with years of mental health issues including self-harm, trauma and depression, which even led to attempts of suicide.

For years, she was taken by her mum to have her beard waxed - though the more she waxed, the "thicker and faster" her facial hair grew.

"School was hell on earth for me," Harnaam said.

"I struggled with deep psychological trauma. I felt as a young girl that no one was listening to me - I overdosed in the girls’ bathroom and wrote a suicide note in the school library that was laughed at by other girls," she added.

When Harnaam turned 16, she started to embrace her beard and let it grow out to challenge society’s expectations of what a woman should look like.

It was a defining moment in her life and has she is an internationally renownedmotivational speaker who has been on the covers of Vogue Japan, Teen Vogue and Cosmo India, given a TED Talk and walked the catwalk at London Fashion Week

Harnaam has also recently set up her own beauty brand, Harnaam Kaur Beauty, which she hopes will inspire others.

Harnaam dealt with years of self-harm, trauma and depression Credit: BPM Media

Despite Harnaam’s successes, she said the bullying she faced still affects her today.

"It will never change - I don't think people realise how much being bullied affects you,” shesaid.

Harnaam also receives transphobic, homophobic and racist slurs on a daily basis, including online death threats.

On International Women’s Day, Harnaam wants to encourage everyone to challenge traditional beauty ideals and become more comfortable in their own skin.

"I will never tell someone to go out and keep your facial hair - I’ve been strong enough to go out and handle it, other people might not be," she said."Today, I am not suicidal, and I do not self-harm. Today. I am happy living as a young, beautiful, bearded woman. I have realised that this body is mine, I own it, I do not have any other body to live in, so I may as well love it unconditionally."“I didn’t think I was going to live past 16, 23 or 30 – now I am a 31-year-old woman oiling my beard. I wonder how did I get here?"