Hairy and proud

What? Have you never seen a bearded lady be­fore? Hope Sch­mer­feld, 38

Chat - - NO MORE SHAME -

I did my best to de­fuzz be­fore he woke up

Wet­ting my ra­zor and lath­er­ing on shav­ing cream, I started my morn­ing rou­tine.

It was Fe­bru­ary 2017, I was 36. Only I wasn’t just shav­ing my legs or armpits. But my face, too.

Since I was 14, I’d suf­fered with ab­nor­mal hair growth.

It’d started slowly. The hairs on my up­per lip get­ting darker, thicker, un­til I prac­ti­cally had a mous­tache.

Dis­traught,

I sobbed to my mum Cyn­thia, now 71.

‘Girls aren’t meant to look like this,’ I cried.

‘We’ll sort it out,’ she soothed. She took me to a sa­lon near our home in Pennsylvan­ia, asked them to wax my lip.

As the beau­ti­cian ripped the hairs out, I prayed that’d be it.

But a few days later, the hair started grow­ing back.

I be­came fix­ated on my face. Mum tried her best to help. Tak­ing me to get waxed, pay­ing for elec­trol­y­sis. Noth­ing worked.

Af­ter two years of try­ing

ev­ery­thing, I turned to tweez­ers. So be­gan my 5am morn­ing ritual. Check­ing for a five o’clock shadow, spend­ing two hours pluck­ing ev­ery chin hair.

I car­ried tweez­ers and a mir­ror ev­ery­where in case I missed patches.

Have they no­ticed my stub­ble,

I’d worry, chat­ting to class­mates.

My self-es­teem hit the floor. To boost my con­fi­dence, I started pole danc­ing, got a job in a club.

But the pres­sure to be this feminine beauty took its toll.

It meant no hair… Any­where. Some­times, I’d shave twice a day.

In Oc­to­ber 2003, I met my part­ner. Ev­ery morn­ing, I’d creep out of bed, into the bath­room.

Do­ing my best to de­fuzz my­self be­fore he woke up. Ex­haust­ing.

But it was six months be­fore I con­fessed to him about my ‘prob­lem’.

‘It doesn’t mat­ter to me,’ he smiled. ‘But I’m glad you get rid of it.’

So I con­tin­ued pluck­ing daily. Then, in July 2006, we had a lit­tle girl – and af­ter all these years, I was get­ting fed up with pluck­ing for hours.

So I went to my doc­tor, had years of tests.

Fi­nally, in Oc­to­ber 2014, I was di­ag­nosed with poly­cys­tic ovary syn­drome (PCOS).

It usu­ally causes elevated testos­terone and ex­cess body

hair. But in my case, my body produces too lit­tle testos­terone.

Medics think it’s a ge­netic mu­ta­tion but don’t know why it causes me to grow so much hair. And there’s no cure. I felt help­less. So I turned to my part­ner.

‘Will you teach me to shave?’ I asked.

As he helped me guide the ra­zor over my skin, I felt ashamed.

No other woman has to do this.

Then, ear­lier this year, my part­ner and I of­fi­cially went our sep­a­rate ways.

With my life fall­ing apart, I knew it was time to change. I read ar­ti­cles about Bri­tish PCOS suf­ferer Har­naam Kaur. Like me, she had fa­cial hair. But she’d stopped shav­ing at 16, and in­stead of be­ing an out­cast was a model and In­sta­gram star.

I can’t hide any more, I re­alised. So in April, I threw out all my ra­zors, creams, hair-re­moval reme­dies...

It was hard at first, leav­ing the house with a hairy chin. Peo­ple would stare, gawk. Men in bars would even ask if I was tran­si­tion­ing. ‘Nope, I’m just a bearded lady,’ I’d smile.

It wasn’t easy.

Some days I was tempted to shave it all off.

But I re­fused to give in, and soon started to feel free and con­fi­dent. My­self.

Now I want to in­spire other women – what­ever their bat­tles – to be con­fi­dent in their own skin. How­ever hairy!

I spent too long hid­ing, but I’m not ashamed any more. I started on­line dat­ing as the real me, and now I’m of­fi­cially see­ing some­one. And I’m hop­ing to go on tour with a cir­cus next year, as a bearded pole dancer. I wish I’d em­braced my beard years ago. Be­cause this is me. And I rather like who I am.

I want to in­spire women – what­ever their bat­tles

Fi­nally free to be me

As a teenager, I was fix­ated on my face

Pole danc­ing gave me the lift I needed

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