By Margretta Sowah
Hair’s a thought.
What if women didn’t shave? What if men did shave?
Would it change the way you view the opposite sex? What about how you perceive beauty? Hair is a cultural divider but also a mode of individuality. Difference. Distinction. An idiosyncrasy. We are all born with it. Long, short. Black, blonde. Curly, straight. Facial. Bodily. Pubic. It is safe to say the hair on our head is under more scrutiny than other ‘attractive’ features on the body. I am a hair girl. I love the confidence you feel when rocking a look that works for you. Who doesn’t love good hair? But, being attractive is not just in our heads, it’s in our spirit.
Meet Harnaam Kaur, a 25 year old primary school Teacher Assistant turned runway and editorial Model. Miss Kaur has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), ‘a complex condition in which a woman’s ovaries are generally bigger than average. Up to a third of women may have polycystic ovaries seen on an ultrasound, but they do not all have PCOS. PCOS is relatively common, especially in infertile women. It affects 12 to 18 per cent of women of reproductive age (between late adolescence and menopause). Almost 70 per cent of these cases remain undiagnosed.’
This condition produces excessive facial hair growth. Diagnosed at the tender age of 11, Harnaam was bullied throughout High School for her odd placement of dark, curly locks. Fast forward to early 2016, Harnaam Kaur was seen strutting down the runway at London’s Royal Fashion Day, an event during the London Fashion Week, for Jewellry designer Marianna Harutunian. Kaur, on Instagram, shared her excitement and inspirational reminder of #EffYourBeautyStandards:
“I grew up watching America’s next top model, and I admired Tyra Banks whole-heartedly… I always wanted to be like the pretty models, so I remember copying the way they posed and walked. I grew up being told I was to [sic] fat, ugly, and disgusting to even model…
I used to look at models and tell myself that I will never ever be able to do what they are doing. I am not pretty enough or beautiful enough and I don’t have the ‘right’ body type. I was laughed at when I said I wanted to model. Jokes on my bullies.” (via @HarnaamKaur)
Harnaam Kaur is no stranger to the spotlight. She has modeling proudly for the Urban Bridesmaid. This body-positive, anti-bullying advocate is a passionate supporter and member of the #EffYourBeautyStandards movement. After sharing her feelings of joy, folks were quick to comment on this groundbreaking and inspirational achievement. Once again, the we are easily divided by the power and lure of beauty in its most relatable form – the human body.
Beauty and Individuality
Beautiful people are always claiming to have no real secret to their physical appearance. We have heard women like Angelina Jolie say; “Beneath the makeup and behind the smile, I am just a regular person. So many girls look up to me. I want them to know that natural is beautiful.” (via The Express Tribune). The Beauty and Fashion Industry thrives on the creative license of public perception. This means both industries have the artistic discretion to design problem-solving products aimed to please consumers – or at least the target market. This does not mean that what they are selling/sewing/stating is a hundred percent true, but it does mean they can curate through highly organized research and trend analysis – sometimes medical and aerial advancements – to bring together a collection addressing the average woman’s personal experiences.
The problem, or should I say challenge, is to keep open a space for the reality check these industries sometimes need. Not everyone lives within the preferred commercial bubble. There are those affected yet still flourishing under curious conditions, rendering them on the ‘fringe’ of society and pop culture.
When Harnaam walked down the runway she was judged for her obvious facial hair. This is no two-month-late wax appointment fix up. Her beard is a result of a medical condition. Did watching bystanders know this? Probably not. Does that make their comments and shade any better? To be judged and criticized for something out of their control? Not by the hair of her chinny-chin-chin (sorry, I couldn’t resist #FeeFiFoFum… Google it).
“I was lucky enough to walk for @mariannaharutunian as the first bearded lady to walk for a celebrity jewellery’s designer. I was humbled to be the first model to walk and open the show for #royalfashionday with the portrait of the legendary #davidbowie looking down on me!” – Harnaam Kaur via Instagram.
We say there is power in individuality, in being unique. Yet when we find uniqueness that is truly unique in the context it is presented in, we question its character.
To the wo(men) who are cultivating their creativity – whether it be through their appearance, producing work or being an active participant in this movie called ‘This is a True Story’ – remember you are as beautiful, confident and inspirational as you have the courage to be (and if you are lucky, you might even get to walk down the runway to your destiny).