‘I’m a bearded woman – disgusted people stare but I love myself’

A woman who is completely covered in hair said she won't let other people stop her from living her life.

Khosi Nkanyezi Buthelezi, 42, suffers from excessive hair growth, and even has a full beard. The condition mostly affects her face, chest, back, arms and legs – but she "loves herself" even though people can be cruel about her looks.

The freelance book editor, from Johannesburg in South Africa, first noticed the extremity when she was just a teen. At the time she thought little of it, as other women in her family also looked the same.

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Then, back last year, she asked professionals what was causing the problem and doctors were left flabbergasted. Since she decided to embrace her image, she's become an advocate for the body positive movement.

Now she even shares videos on TikTok to show people how far she's come. Even though she gets hit with some negativity, she is aware this comes as part and parcel of the process.

Even so, trolls can sometimes take things to the extreme, with one even dubbing her "male". She said: "I grew up accustomed to hairy women like my aunts being seen as blessed, strong and strict so I figured it was something I had inherited. Hence, I never approached a doctor about my body hair, I had no physical issues.

"But when I finally visited my GP, they suggested hormone-level tests for fertility and Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, they both came back negative. I could have children if I wanted to and there was no need for hormonal treatment, it all seemed fine."

One professional did propose Khosi might have hirsutism, a condition that normally affects women and results in excess hair developing in certain areas. Khosi had never heard of it before, but it forced her to start shaving her hair.

Her family advised her not to, but she started to shave every week. It didn't solve the problem though – in fact, the more she shaved, the more it returned.

She also tried waxing but she said it ended up being nothing other than "costly and painful". As well as this, she gave laser hair surgery a whirl, but it only worked for a little while. In the end it came back pretty aggressively – no matter how she tried to rid it.

Khosi added: "I stopped shaving and instead, started to love myself. I learned that self-acceptance is a crucial aspect of self-care.

"It is the foundation for our confidence and self-esteem. I've had to remember that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms, and I am bringing body hair to the beauty equation."

Even though she shows a lot of confidence, it hasn't been an easy journey to acceptance. The influencer often receives hateful comments from people, and said people can stare with "fascination" when she's out and about.

She added: "People in public have reacted with shock, fascination, disgust and disapproval of my beard, but I am actively working on unlearning the need for external validation. Unfortunately, people can be judgmental and cruel towards someone who looks different in some way, so, it's important to remember that their opinions and comments do not define my worth.

"I walk around anywhere and everywhere including the mall, restaurants, and events and I have learned to ignore stares and comments as much as possible.

"If someone is particularly rude or offensive, I speak up and assert boundaries. I deserve respect and dignity. One guy stated that I just need a penis and that I'm a male."

But Khosi now embraces her look, even though she wishes it was "softer" and easier to tame. Beard maintenance simply forms a part of her daily routine these days.

She's so used to it now that she forgets she has hair on her face. It's simply become a part of who she is, and she's not willing to hide it anymore.

"Ultimately, it is up to me to decide how I want to present and express myself and whether or not I want to keep the beard," she explained. "It has become an important part of my identity."

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