A woman who shaved her entire body because she felt like a ‘freak’ due to excessive body and facial hair has ditched the razor and embraced her natural look.
Leah Jorgensen, 33, has polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder which can cause hirsutism, or abnormal, male-pattern hair growth.
From the age of 14 she was branded a ‘man’ by bullies and in a desperate bid to hide the hair, she wore full-sleeved, high-necked shirts and long pants for 13 years.
Excessive hair growth: Leah Jorgensen, 33, has polycystic ovary syndrome, a disorder which can cause abnormal, male-pattern hair growth
Labeled a man: From the age of 14 she was branded a ‘man’ by bullies and wore long shirts
Hours shaving: Leah would spend hours removing the thick, dark hair on her body
In her late twenties she turned to shaving and spent hours removing the thick, dark hair on her chin, cheeks, upper lip, chest, stomach, arms, legs and back.
Leah, a behavioral health technician from Madison, Wisconsin, said: ‘I had never seen women who looked like me. I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to talk about it.’
‘My way of coping with that shame and embarrassment was to hide. 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.’
‘I had a bad experience with my doctor. She had never seen such an extreme case of hirsutism and she was startled and made a facial expression.’
Ashamed: Leah said she had never seen women who looked like her and felt embarrassed
Hiding: Her daily goal for a long time was to just get through the day without anyone noticing her
Anxiety: She developed a terrible case of anxiety and it really took a toll on my mental health
‘Somehow less of a woman’: She said she felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared over her body hair
‘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.’
‘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.’
She feared people getting close to her and seeing the hair on her face which resulted in her not having her first kiss until age 27 and avoiding the dentist for 12 years.
She said: ‘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 in the summer and I would wear hoodies year round so I would be drowning in sweat.’
Living alone: She was convinced that she would lose her friends and her family would disown her
Life change: In 2015 Leah was hit by a car as she crossed a road and had an epiphany
The real her: Paramedics had to cut her clothes off so people saw the extent of her hair growth up close for the first time
Realization: She discovered that no one cared what she looked like because they just saw her as a person.
‘People would ask me, “Why are you wearing that” and I was just like, ‘Leave me alone.’
‘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 December 2015, Leah was hit by a car as she crossed a road and she had to be taken to hospital by ambulance.
Paramedics cut her clothes off and she underwent surgery and therapy, so people saw the extent of her hair growth up close for the first time.
‘I realized no one cared what I looked like, they just saw me as a person. It really helped me to get over it,’ she said.
Around that time, Leah also connected with a man who found her attractive, body hair and all.
Connection: Around that time, Leah also connected with a man who found her attractive, body hair and all
Push: She is no longer in a relationship but said the fact that he embraced her helped give her the push she needed
No more running: She stopped removing her body hair just over a year ago and feels ’empowered’
Brave: And last summer, she wore a bikini for the first time and shared photos to her Instagram
She is no longer in a relationship but said the fact that he embraced her for who she is helped give her the push she needed.
‘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,’ she said.
‘I thought, “enough is enough,” I didn’t want to run from it anymore.’
Since she stopped removing her body hair just over a year ago, Leah says she feels empowered and hopes her story will give other women courage.
She has also started to wear low-cut, sleeveless tops and show her legs in public.
Just last summer, she bravely wore a bikini for the first time and shared photos of her hair with her 2,500 plus followers on Instagram.
The mindset shift also prompted her to quit her job in insurance and return to college, where she is studying social work and recently got a job working with autistic children.
New mindset: The shift also prompted her to quit her job in insurance and return to college
Unique: Leah said people stare or try to take photos but she expects it now
Embrace it: She used to be afraid of her body hair but now she lets it grow freely
Not alone: Leah hopes that sharing her story will give others courage
Leah said: ‘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.’
‘I do still shave my face because I like how my face looks without hair but I used to shave multiple times a day and now I will go a couple of days.’
‘It has been incredibly empowering.’
Next month, Leah will be one of 100 women photographed for a book promoting diversity as part of a project called Underneath We Are Women.
‘I hope that sharing my story will give others courage. And to women who have hirsutism – you are not alone.’