Not unlike many body positive models out there, Harnaam Kaur embraces and flaunts her curves on her instagram (@harnaamkaur) as an advocate for anyone whose ever been bullied and ridiculed, or had their body policed by hateful strangers who claim they’re “just trying to help.” With big names like Tess Holliday (the first size 22 model to grace the cover of People magazine, and my personal queen), there is a definitive road being paved for self love and fat acceptance.
Harnaam Kaur, however, is shining the self-acceptance light on more then just her figure. She has a beard.

The young, British born Sikh woman was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at a young age, when she hit puberty. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormone imbalance that occurs in women, causing more male hormones to develop than is considered “normal.” Some of the side affects include irregular periods, weight gain (and difficulty losing it), ovarian pain, infertility, and in Harnaam Kaur’s case, irregular body hair growth.

Despite her religious beliefs (The Sikh faith generally doesn’t condone altering one’s body), Harnaam Kaur was frequenting salons sometimes 2 or 3 times a week for rapid hair removal to keep her beard from growing in. She was the victim of extreme bullying from a young age, the torment worsening to the point of Harnaam Kaur resorting to self-mutilation. During this dark period of her life, Harnaam Kaur considered her bedroom to be her safe haven, where she would reflect on the cruelty she was facing because of a medical condition she couldn’t control.

Harnaam Kaur paints a heart wrenching story through our e-mail exchange, stating that at her darkest moment, the closest she had ever come to committing suicide, she had an epiphany. “The Energy that you are putting into ending your life,” she told herself, “put all that energy into turning your life around and doing something better.” Harnaam Kaur decided to stop enduring painful wax treatments to hide her beard, and made the conscious effort to embrace and love herself for who she was born to be, beard and all. Because society had been so cruel to her with it’s expectations and ruthless body shaming, Harnaam Kaur began voicing her real life experiences as a bullying victim, her PCOS story, and how her small act of “letting it grow” shouldn’t be criticized, but celebrated for its body positive message.

Although finally feeling true self love was reward enough for Harnaam Kaur’s bravery, her body positive message has exploded across the internet for all men and women to hear. She claims she still has rough days, especially when she reads hate messages online, but she proudly wears her beard, and loves what it stands for to herself and her admirers. “I have realised that this body is mine, I own it, I do not have any other body so I might as well love it unconditionally. I love my beard, my stretch marks, my scars, these elements make me who I am now. They make me whole, they make me complete. I am content with my body.”

I have been following Harnaam Kaur for quite some time now on instagram. I have fought with ovarian cysts since the age of 20, and have personally felt the shame and self-doubt associated with infertility. I also haven’t found my strength yet to completely stop removing my facial hair growth, despite my own strong roots in the body positive movement. I have felt personally tied to Harnaam Kaur’s story, not only because she is defying society’s whacky, nonsense beauty standards, but because she does it with a big, beautiful smile on her face. She isn’t just accepting her beard, she is embracing it. She is proud of it. She writes, “My beard has become 100% a part of my body; it is the source of my strength and my confidence. People see it as just hair, but for me, my beard is much more then that. My beard gives me comfort as a woman. I see it as a sign that we are all different.”

Harnaam Kaur models now, and was recently the subject for a highly publicized photoshoot portraying Harnaam Kaur as a beautiful, flowered Goddess. With this new found spotlight, her number in followers and admirers has exploded at an increasingly rapid rate. She writes that she is thankful for her wonderfully supportive parents, and especially her 20-year-old brother, whom of which can often be seen in Harnaam Kaur’s instagram photos.

Most importantly, Harnaam Kaur’s goal through both her modeling career and her body positive activism is to challenge the idea of “beauty.” She aims to dismantle the idea of perfect beauty, because as she sees it, every person is so different and unique from one another, and that is true beauty.

Venue: Severndroog Castle Woolwich, SE London
http://www.severndroogcastle.org.uk/

Model: Harnaam Kaur
https://instagram.com/harnaamkaur/
Make up artist: Kam Sandhu
https://www.facebook.com/kamsmidastouch

Stationery: Tayjal Mistry
https://www.facebook.com/ManisCreativeServices

Wedding Dress: Cutting Edge Brides, Bexley, Kent
http://www.cuttingedgebrides.com

Cakes: Milk Street Kitchen (Ellie)

Flowers, Floral Crowns and Beards: Wild Coco (Lucy Mooney)
http://www.wild-coco.com/

Tablescape Design: Blessed Union Events (Jacqueline Mars)
https://instagram.com/blessedunionevents/

Photographer: Urban Bridesmaid (Louisa Coulthurst)

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2nd photographer(behind the scenes): Cassandra Watson
http://www.cwatsonphotography.co.uk/