Leah Jorgenson, 33, said she’s “happy and hairy” now that she is accepting her polycystic ovary syndrome—a hormonal disorder which can cause abnormal, male-pattern hair growth.happyandhairy/Instagram
As the New York Post reports, Jorgensen hasn’t always embraced her natural appearance; she used to shave her entire body because she felt like a “freak.”
Jorgensen, who is a behavioral health technician from Madison, Wisconsin, explained:
“I had never seen women who looked like me. I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to talk about it.”
She told The Post that she had a traumatic bullying experience as a teenager. From the age of 14 years old, she was insecure and sensitive about kids noticing the hair that covered her entire body.happyandhairy/Instagram
“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.”
For 13 years she desperately tried hiding the hair. Even during the summer, she wore long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover herself up:
“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 (Wisconsin) 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.’”
She thought her condition would severely impact her life and the relationships she had with others:
“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.”
In her late twenties, Jorgensen turned to shaving.
She tediously spent hours removing the thick, dark hair, which grew “on her chin, cheeks, upper lip, chest, stomach, arms, legs and back,” reports The Post.
Jorgensen said her insecurity stopped her from getting close to people. She was so sensitive about her hair that she didn’t have her first kiss until age 27 and she avoided her annual dentist appointment for 12 years.
She recounted a time a doctor made her feel uncomfortable about her condition during a medical exam.
“I had a bad experience with my doctor. She had never seen such an extreme case of hirsutism (unwanted, male-pattern hair growth in women) 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.”
Jorgensen explained that her way of coping with the condition was to hide.
She told The Post:
“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.”
Everything changed for Jorgensen when she was forced to face her fear in December 2015.
She was hit by a car as she crossed a road and had to be rushed to a hospital in a ambulance. The paramedics cut her clothes off to undergo surgery and she couldn’t hide her hair growth.
She said the event helped her see:
“No one cared what I looked like, they just saw me as a person. It really helped me to get over it.”
Around that time, she started dating a man who found her attractive—even with her hair. From that moment, she felt more comfortable with her hirsutism, and just over a year ago she stopped shaving.happyandhairy/Instagram
“I realized 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 thought, ‘Enough is enough.’ I didn’t want to run from it anymore.”
The change prompted her to share her story on Instagram in hopes of empowering other women with PCOS and to normalize female body hair. She told The Post she’s showing her hair off in public now and “it has been incredibly empowering.”happyandhairy/Instagram
She said that people still stare, but she doesn’t care:
“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.”
She hasn’t completely given up shaving, though. She still shaves her face because she prefers the way it looks with no hair.happyandhairy/Instagram
The Post reports that Leah is a part of the Underneath We Are Women project and she is one of 100 women who will be photographed for a book promoting body positivity and diversity.
Of her story, she said: “I hope that sharing my story will give others courage. And to women who have hirsutism: You are not alone.”