A woman who has spent her entire life shaving her entire body because she felt like a ‘freak’ has decided to ditch the razor.
Leah Jorgensen, 33, has decided to embrace the natural look, after struggling with polycystic ovary syndrome for some years.
The syndrome is a hormonal disorder which can cause hirsutism, or abnormal, male-pattern hair growth.
From the age of 14, she was branded a ‘man’ by cruel bullies, so she wore full-sleeved, high-necked shirts with long trousers for 13 years in a desperate bid to hide her hair.
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In her late twenties, Leah turned to shaving and spent hours painstakingly removing the hair on her chin, cheeks, upper lip, chest, stomach, arms, legs and back.
She was so afraid of people getting close to her and seeing the hair on her face that she didn’t have her first kiss until she was 27. She even avoided the dentist for 12 years.
Since then though, Leah has ditched the razor and has taken to showing the hair off in public, saying she feels ’empowered’.
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She hopes her story will give other women courage, saying:
I had never seen women who looked like me. I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to talk about it. My way of coping with that shame and embarrassment was to hide. My daily goal for a long time was to just get through the day without anyone noticing how hairy I was.
Because I have so much of it, it was very difficult to hide it. I developed a terrible case of anxiety and it really took a toll on my mental health.
I had a bad experience with my doctor. She had never seen such an extreme case of hirsutism and she was startled and made a facial expression.She had a figure on a piece of paper and she drew where the hair was. I was so sensitive that it really upset me and made me feel like a freak.
In junior high school a classmate noticed the hair on my face and there was this group of girls that would tease me about it and call me a man.
I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared, like I was somehow less of a woman.
I covered up with clothes and shaved my face, and if I was going to be showing any part of my body I would shave it.
It gets hot and humid here in the summer and I would wear hoodies year round so I would be drowning in sweat.
People would ask me, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ and I was just like, ‘Leave me alone’.
I was really convinced I would lose my friends and my family would disown me and I wouldn’t be able to get a job or a boyfriend, I would just live a miserable life alone.
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In December 2015, Leah was hit by a car and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance, during which time paramedics cut her clothes off so she could be treated.
She underwent surgery and therapy, and it was the first time people saw the extent of her hair growth up close for the first time.
She said that experience helped her get over her anxiety, as the medical staff saw her only as a person, and didn’t care what she looked like.
Around that time, Leah found a man who found her attractive, body hair and all, which she said helped give her the push she needed.
I realised that I never really disliked how the hair looked. The problem was not with the hair, it was with people’s perception of it.
I thoguht, ‘Enough is enough’. I didn’t want to run from it anymore.
Leah hasn’t shaved her body hair for a whole year, and Leah says she feels empowered. She wears low-cut tops, and shows her legs in public.
She even wore a bikini for the first time last summer, and has an Instagram with over 2,000 followers.
She quit her job in insurance and has returned to college to study social work, and works with autistic children.
People definitely stare or try to take photos but I expect that because you don’t really see women who look like me.
I used to be scared of people noticing my hair but now I embrace it and let it grow. I’m unique and that is perfectly fine.
I do still shave my face because I like how my face looks without hair, but I used to shave multiple times a day and now I will go a couple of days.
It has been incredibly empowering. I hope that my story will give others courage. And to women who have hirsutism; you are not alone.
#Repost @longwrongroad ・・・ next month i am traveling to NYC to be a part of the @underneath_we_are_women project. Underneath We Are Women is a photobook coming out in 2019 that will showcase the diversity of women through honest and raw photographs. 100 women, 100 bodies, 100 stories! super cool, right?!?? but there are other women who have important stories to tell that need assistance getting to NYC and LA to be a part of this amazing project. there is a link in my bio to a gofundme page if you’re able to contribute to help get their stories told. thanks y’all!!!?? #underneathwearewomen #bodydiversity #effyourbeautystandards
Next month, Leah will be one of 100 women who is going to be photographed for a book which is promoting diversity as part of a project called Underneath We Are Women.
It just goes to show the damaging effects which traditional beauty standards can have, particularly on women who consistently have other people tell them ‘what they need to be’.
Hopefully, with more people like Leah, that will begin to change.