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Bearded woman: I’m confident and I love myself

Interview Nihal Arthanayake, words by Jimmy Blake
Asian Network presenter, Newsbeat reporter

image captionHarnaam Kaur was speaking to Nihal on BBC Asian Network

A 23-year-old woman, who has a full beard has told the BBC Asian Network: "I'm confident and I love myself."

Harnaam Kaur has polycystic ovary syndrome ,which has caused the excessive hair growth, and has been letting her facial hair grow for seven years.

Speaking after interviews and videos of her appeared on social media around the world she said: "I'm trying to separate myself from the norms of society.

"I don't want to look like a typical woman."

Harnaam's outlook hasn't always been so positive.

She was 11 when a beard started to appear on her face and the hair quickly spread to her chest and arms.

The condition made her the victim of bullying, she said: "All through secondary school I was bullied by I would say the whole school.

"It was absolutely horrible. I hated waking up."

'I was imprisoned'

During her early teens, Harnaam was so ashamed of her beard that she resorted to waxing twice a week. She also tried bleaching and shaving.

But, she says, it only made the problem worse with the hair becoming thicker and spreading to larger areas of her body.

She became so self-conscious that she refused to leave the house, started self-harming at the age of 14 and even considered taking her own life.

"I would say I was imprisoned in my bedroom where I kept myself," she said.

"It was about a year on when I thought to myself 'Right, this is not helping me in any sort of way'.

"It [self-harming] caused me a lot more emotional harm than it did good."

Harnaam described growing up as hard.

"I think unless someone actually steps into your shoes they're not going to realise what you're going through," said Harnaam.

"As a teenager I would look at magazines I would see beautiful women on TV and I would want to look like them.

"It was horrible to see my friends having boyfriends and having no-one who was attracted to me.

"I walked around thinking 'Wow, you are one ugly ducking'."

'I think I've blossomed'

Harnaam, who says she had a lot of support from her younger brother and friends, stopped using her razor for good after being baptised as a Sikh at 16.

The practice of allowing hair to grow naturally, without cutting it, is seen as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation.

"I battled so much with the concept of keeping my hair," she said.

"Even after I still used to remove, but that was only for about a month or so afterwards. I realised the deep meaning of not removing facial hair.

"It was probably from that moment that I thought to myself 'I'm going to stop, I'm going to throw away this razor'."

She said that her religion has given her a lot more confidence.

"I think I had finally found myself in my natural form.

"As my self-confidence has soared I'm more open to talking to new people. I think I've blossomed in a way."

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