The world can be a pretty unkind place to those who people view as “different,” which Leah Jorgensen, from Madison, Wisconsin, realized at a young age. With a condition that caused her to grow an excessive amount of body hair, Leah was teased and called names like “man” and “freak” by bullies. The verbal abuse lead her to cover up, even if the weather was warm.
Leah believed her best course of action was to hide the hair, rather than allow others to view her and potentially make fun of her.
In her 20s, she began shaving and waxing the thick, dark hair from her face, chest, arms, back, and stomach, a process which took hours. Feeling ashamed, she would avoid getting close to people and a doctor proved to not be very helpful in understanding why she had such excessive hair growth.
She explained: “I had never seen women who looked like me. I was so ashamed that I didn’t want to talk about it.” Leah added: “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.”
That decision to hide, however, impacted her greatly, as Leah explained: “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.”
When she sought medical help, the outcome was devastating, as she shard: “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. 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.”
As for attempting to shave and hide, Leah explained: “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.”
Leah had a life-changing moment in December 2015 when she was hit by a car while crossing the road. With paramedics needing to cut off her clothes and doctors performing surgery, Leah explained: “I realized no one cared what I looked like, they just saw me as a person. It really helped me to get over it.”
It gave her a new mindset and she stopped hiding, explaining: “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 continued, “I thought, ‘enough is enough,’ I didn’t want to run from it anymore.”
Leah stopped the shaving and waxing and now sports low-cut and sleeveless tops and ditched the pants. Last summer, she wore a bikini for the first time, posting photos to Instagram.
She explained, “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.”