In an effort to empower others, a young woman who has a beard due to a hormonal disorder is no longer hiding her facial hair.
Alma Torres, a 24-year-old photographer in the Bronx, New York, was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was 16. The disorder can cause inconsistent menstrual periods, acne, weight gain, infertility, and excess hair growth. In Torres’s case, she grew a beard.
“I have been called ‘ugly’; others have said I should ‘kill myself,’” Torres told the Daily Mail. “People have told me, ‘Go wax your ugly a**’ and have called me ‘cancer.’”
She adds that she often gets harassed over the Internet, and when people try to take her photo on the street. “I just laugh and smile," she says. "I know it’s not a big deal, so I’m OK with it.”
However, in August, Torres decided to stop shaving her beard and accept her appearance. She has the support of Taylor, her boyfriend of five years. Not only does the 22-year-old believe his girlfriend’s facial hair is 'beautiful' and 'natural', he even helps Torres with her beauty routine, tweezing her stray hairs.
“I told Taylor about my beard when we started dating,” Torres told the publication. “I was shaving at this point so there were times he would see me frustrated and help me tweeze it. When I started to grow it I looked at him and asked him, ‘Babe, what if I grow my beard? Would it bother you?’ His answer was ‘Nope, it’s just hair. That’s normal.’”
“She’s still beautiful to me and her beard doesn’t define her," Taylor explains of his girlfriend. "It’s just hair and it doesn’t have anything to do with how a person feels... it’s what is inside that matters. It’s something that’s natural and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Torres, who didn’t respond to Yahoo Beauty’s request for comment, isn’t the only woman with PCOS who aims to eradicate the stigma surrounding the condition.
Harnaam Kaur, a 25-year-old British model and Guinness Book record holder for the youngest woman to have a full beard, has been a body-positive advocate since her decision to stop shaving at the age of 16.
Kaur has posed for a bridal magazine, her beard adorned with colourful flowers. Her portrait hangs in an exhibition at Somerset House in London. She’s also walked the runway for jeweller Marianna Harutunian, whose celebrity clientele include Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.
Kaur recently told the Guardian that she’s “collaborating with as many magazines and doing as many TV appearances as I can, to show women that you don’t have to look a certain way to be happy.”
However, she insists that others with PCOS should follow their own beauty rules. “I live by the phrase ‘My body, my rules,’” she said. “If keeping your hair makes you uncomfortable or depressed, then get rid of it; otherwise, if you’ve got it, rock it.”
Torres clearly agrees. “I want to tell other PCOS sufferers that this is who you are, but if you want to change it then it’s fine. But if you feel comfortable, then don’t change,” she told the Daily Mail. “I don’t want to change … I’m happy with the way I am.”