Sophia Hadjipanteli speaks in tones as unique as her aesthetic, as she calmly recalls how many death threats she received today.
Too many to count, apparently, the Cypriot-British model who’s featured in campaigns for Guess tells UNILAD.
Hadjipanteli never sought out Internet fame, but it came a-knocking with a career in fashion at the age of 15, when she featured on the cover of Vogue Italia.
A piece I did with a friend meant to celebrate the natural woman. I mean I definitely like my natural skin, but I am also not completely granola…yet. Amazing photographer…bad lighting ? Lol go check out his and other amazing portfolios on VOGUE Italia in the online portfolio section. (He is getting an instagram so I will tag him in this shortly)
Now 21-years-old and a student of Marketing at Maryland University, Sophia grew her very own two-finger salute to Western beauty ideals on her face and her distinctive looks earned a spot on Instagram’s Explore feed.
154,000 Instagram followers later and Sophia is discovering the Internet Jury can be even more contrary than the Fashion Elite and now, the picture-sharing platform has become her battleground.
All over a little bit of body hair between her eyebrows, she explains:
I’ve had people say they know where I live, what car I drive, I’ve had people who’ve sent me quite detailed death threats on Instagram follow me while out with my cousin.
The threats aren’t just ‘Go die’. They can be very vivid. I have a routine of deleting anything negative, because if I don’t I’ll want to respond but I’d rather spend that time saying thank you to the kind comments.
Sophia addresses the ‘hate comments’ in the video below:
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You’re just as likely to see social media users suggesting Sophia should kill herself over her ‘ugly’ or ‘hideous’ eyebrows, as you are to see the comments section on her selfies littered with ‘preach hand’ emojis from admirers who’ve dubbed her a ‘goddess’.
Everyday, Sophia’s social media routine consists of a repetitive ‘click, block, swipe, delete’ four-pronged defensive attack against trolls and their comments.
She says it’s become second nature now, which leaves her feeling equal parts ‘sad that trolls think there’s something wrong with me’ and inspired to prove them wrong.
Sophia told UNILAD:
I know people’s reactions will either be very positive or very negative.
I wish they were all positive, but they’re not, and that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop what I’m doing.
I think we’re all hypocrites in some sense, but people pay such close attention to every little detail in the society we live in now, so they’re bound to judge every little thing you do.
Yet two years ago, she exclusively revealed to UNILAD, how she was sexually assaulted on a summer holiday in Cyprus.
The experience left her – and her outlook regarding what is important in life – changed and she stopped feeling so much pressure to conform to anyone else’s beauty ideals.
Through expressing herself in a manner which felt natural – unibrow and all – Sophia explains she was able to heal and become more at home in her own skin.
Sometimes you just have to tear yourself down to your absolute raw state. I’m like a hermit crab.
That shell I was in before is just not for me anymore.
But you just take yourself out of your little shell, crawl over to a new one and redevelop yourself – and when that one’s done you move over to a new one.
Sophia was born and raised in the US, by her parents who came to the country, as she puts it, ‘fresh off the boat’ from Cyprus and brought their two children up with an innate sense of self worth and confidence.
It served them well in the face of mean kids, who picked on Sophia and her brother, two years her senior, for their background – and, as Sophia puts it, her ‘out there’ and ‘mismatched’ sense of style.
Recalling her childhood, Sophia laughed as she told UNILAD:
When I look back on it – some of the stuff I used to wear, from the thrift store and my mum’s closet – I definitely think I just wanted to get a reaction!
I think, at times, I did it to spite bullies. You know, if someone bullies you for something you just want to do it ten times harder.
I guess the mentality I had growing up was ‘If they’re going to be rude to me for the way I am, I’m just going to be myself even more’.
Sophia – who was diagnosed with ADHD – along with her brother, were both subjected to physical and emotional bullying as kids.
Embarrassed to throw around the word ‘bully’ too lightly, Sophia explains her school peers would pelt her with rocks and dip her clarinet reed in the toilet without telling her.
I was tremendously bullied. I was tormented everyday. Everyday, I would eat lunch alone in the bathroom or in the library.
This isn’t a sob story though; it’s a strong story. Sophia assured UNILAD she ‘never shed a single tear’.
Now, the young model’s unbridled and almost inhuman resilience in the face of daily death threats and stalker-like behaviour from online trolls, makes sense.
When she was a kid, she remembers, her eyebrows were ‘never really a thing’ playground bullies picked up on, but Sophia remembers being frustrated because her mum wouldn’t let her pluck them, from a young age.
Sharing advice with others experiencing bullying, either online or elsewhere, the 21-year-old said she choses to remember she ‘hasn’t even met half the people’ she will throughout her life yet.
Despite respecting the well-meaning compliments, Sophia explained:
The only thing people in my Greek-Cypriot culture and in my community would say to me was, ‘Oh you’re so pretty’ and ‘Your parents are so lucky to have such a beautiful daughter’.
But in a way, I just felt I had so much more to offer.
Subconsciously or not, Sophia seems to be rebelling against ‘the village mentality where the thing women should be most proud of is their appearance’ by championing an aesthetic which is largely ignored by mainstream beauty standards.
Threatening keyboard warriors aside, Sophia tells us the one thing which really ‘riles’ her:
I hate it when people say I’m doing this for attention. You know what? I had a unibrow long before I had Instagram.
People say if I got rid of my unibrow I’d just be normal… But normal is so subjective!
The irony of people suggesting a women consciously grows hair on her body for attention – and failing to understand hair growth is a naturally occurring and unstoppable process – is hopefully lost on no one.
You can check out hirsute human biology at its finest below:
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Meanwhile, Sophia is still channeling her four-year-old self, who was the smallest in school but yelled the loudest and she’s excited to see where the endless hate comments, which help to bolster her platform online, will take her in the future.
After all, she added, the extra attention which she never sought in the first place means: “I’m no longer ‘The Girl With A Unibrow’. I’m the girl with a unibrow who is resilient.”
Maybe one day people will stop abusing women for the very hair on their heads and she can go back to just being Sophia Hadjipanteli.
If you’re being bullied at work, at home, in the community or in education The National Bullying Helpline can help. Call them on 0845 22 55787 or 07734 701221 for advice and support.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.