Anissa Bennett has given up shaving her “lady beard.”
After decades of being taunted and insecure, the Newfoundland, Canada, native said she feels “more confident than ever” after embracing her natural facial hair.
After experiencing irregular periods, Bennett was first diagnosed with hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome when she was 12 years old. Around the same time as her diagnosis, her PCOS caused her to develop hirsutism — a condition that causes the excessive growth of dark or coarse hair, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“As soon as puberty hit, I started getting a little female mustache,” Bennett, 41, told Kennedy News. “It was always a problem going through school as it’s the last thing you want. People teased and bullied me because I had it and it was ‘thicker than their father’s’ or something.”
The mom of one continued: “Then you have your standard name calling like ‘fatty,’ ‘piggy’ or ‘oh, she’s got a mustache.’ I got called a ‘hairy ape’ or ‘monkey’ — anything that they could think of really. It made me very self-conscious.”
During her early teens, Bennett’s mother used to bleach her mustache and a few hairs growing underneath her chin, but as she got older more developed. She now has hair on her face, arms, chest, stomach and legs.
She tried electrolysis for almost two years as a teen but stopped when the painful procedure failed to show any promising results.
When Bennett entered the workforce at 22, she felt societal pressure to present a hair-free face as a woman and began shaving her face daily.
“When I finished school and got into the workforce, that’s when I really felt like it was an issue and I started to shave because it was easier to take it off. In society in general women with facial hair are looked down on, even if they bleach it,” she shared.
“Even if I bleached it, you’d still see all that facial hair. I really did it because of societal pressure, not mostly because I felt the need to do it. I felt pressured to do it because it wasn’t acceptable.”
Bennett used to shave her face daily but eased up when she started working from home 12 years ago. Still, she never went longer than three days without a shave.
But after seeing other women with “#LadyBeards” — the hashtag has 30.6 million views on TikTok — online, Bennett felt inspired to let hers grow and has been sharing her journey on TikTok with her 4,000 followers hoping to raise awareness of female facial hair and PCOS.
She began letting her facial hair grow wild on August 25 in honor of PCOS Awareness Month in September and has since found a new wave of confidence after just nearly 20 days.
“I’d seen videos of other bearded ladies and thought ‘you know what, I’m done. I’m tired of shaving and trying to conform with societal images of what women should look like,’” Bennett said. “I’m not sure I’m going to let it grow 10 foot long or anything like that [because then] I might have to trim it and style it.”
But she is done hiding away or feeling pressured to hide her natural appearance.
“I have the confidence to go out and not care what other people are thinking,” she said. “Before it would hurt me to know that people were either bullying me, avoiding me or looking down at my stubble. It hurt me — but now I’m stronger.”
After nearly a lifetime of shame and nearly 30 years of shaving, Bennett said she’s now secure in who she is and no longer feels the need to have others’ approval of her appearance.
“Their opinions really don’t matter in that regard. I do value other people’s opinions but when it comes to judging me and my facial hair, I’m over that and don’t need that,” she said. “I’m feeling very confident. I’ve been out and about shopping and had a meeting with the board last night, which was their first time seeing it face to face and they were totally understanding and accepting.”
Bennett said she still feels the stares when she’s out in public — but mostly sees smiling faces. Even the reaction on TikTok has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“If I have to give you a percentage of negative comments, it might have been like 1%. I had somebody say ‘hello Mr.,’ that’s not awful but it was a dig,” she said. “Your hair does not define who you are. Who you are is how you treat other people and yourself — be respectful, love yourself.”