How this ‘bearded lady’ finally learnt to love her facial hair – and make money out of it

By admin
14 July 2016

After two decades of shaving her beard in secret, she is finally proud of it – so much so that she even styles it with ribbons.

Since she was just 14, Little Bear Schwarz – who legally changed her name from Renee – has been shaving, waxing and undergoing laser treatment to get rid of her unwanted fuzz.

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Little Bear Schwarz used to shave every day. PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear Schwarz used to shave every day. PHOTO: PA Real Life

For years she would get up early to shave, ensuring boyfriends wouldn’t see her stubble.

Then two years ago, the 33-year-old finally learnt to embrace her facial hair, after winning a beard competition.

Little Bear with her dad. PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear with her dad. PHOTO: PA Real Life

Since then, Little Bear has had people stare at her and even question whether she's a woman.

But despite the cruel comments, she refuses to go back to her old life of daily shaving.

Read more: ‘It was exhausting trying to keep it hidden’: US woman gives up on razors to wear her beard with pride

“I’ve had a taste of being myself and I can’t go back to how I was,” she said.

“I’m proud of my beard and work hard to keep it soft.

“I put ribbons in it and make it in to spikes or shape it to look like tentacles.”

She loves coming up with creative styles for her facial hair. PHOTO: PA Real Life She loves coming up with creative styles for her facial hair. PHOTO: PA Real Life

Little Bear, of Seattle in the US, was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was 31 years old.

She’d suffered with excessive hair growth – a major symptom of the condition – for 17 years by then.

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However, as doctors couldn’t find any cysts when they ran ultrasound scans, the diagnosis wasn’t immediately obvious.

When she first started growing hair on her upper lip, chin and chest at 14, Little Bear had begun shaving regularly.

Little Bear Schwarz, in 1986, age three. PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear Schwarz, in 1986, age three. PHOTO: PA Real Life

“Keeping it wasn’t an option,” she said. “I would shave in the shower as I didn’t want to see myself doing it.

“I was very secretive about it – women shouldn’t have facial hair.”

Little Bear told how she would end up with a shaving rash, which she’d cover with make-up.

As well as her beard, Little Bear loves experimenting with her locks too. PHOTO: PA Real Life As well as her beard, Little Bear loves experimenting with her locks too. PHOTO: PA Real Life

She considered the option of laser treatment or waxing – but lasers were too expensive, and she didn’t want to leave her hair to grow out until it was long enough to wax.

Therefore, she always went back to shaving, even waking up early if she was staying at a boyfriend’s house to rid herself of stubble before he saw it.

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“I did a lot of dating,” she said. “I played a game of, ‘Let’s make sure they never see my stubble.’”

In September 2013, Little Bear met her now-ex boyfriend via a Facebook page about open relationships, and he seemed to accept her for who she was, facial hair and all.

She's finally at home in her own body. PHOTO: PA Real Life She's finally at home in her own body. PHOTO: PA Real Life

After six months, she moved 3 000 miles (4 800 km) from Florida to Seattle to live with him, and felt like she was in a place – mentally and physically - where she could start growing her beard.

“In Seattle, I was working from home, so didn’t need to shave for work. I felt like I was safe to try growing my hair.

“Seattle seemed more progressive and welcoming than Florida too.

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“My ex accepted me. I even joked with him that he couldn’t grow a good beard.”

At first, Little Bear feared she’d made a terrible mistake by ditching the razor, terrified of being harassed for having a beard.

She'd seen a TV show called Whisker Wars a couple of years earlier, about people competing to grow the longest beard.

And after researching it further, she learned of a local competition for bearded ladies called Whiskerinas.

Little Bear quickly realised she could make a career out of having a beard. PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear quickly realised she could make a career out of having a beard. PHOTO: PA Real Life

However, what she didn’t realise was that the competition was actually for false beards crafted from things like wool, as opposed to real hair.

“I didn’t realise the competition was actually for crafty beards,” she said. “Everyone else had made papier mache and knitted beards.

“I turned up and thought I’d have the worst beard there, but I was an instant hit.

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“When I won, I felt like it was a sign I should carry on.”

Little Bear quickly realised she could make a career out of having a beard.

She continued: “At the competition I met the Wreckless Freeks, who are a circus sideshow troupe. They realised I had a real beard and asked, ‘Do you want to join our sideshow?’

Little Bear with her beard styled in curls PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear with her beard styled in curls PHOTO: PA Real Life

“I realised I could make having a beard a career.”

With no circus experience, Little Bear spent six months learning the show.

Read more: ‘I was happy’: Boy (7) who grew out hair to donate to cancer patients now has stage 4 cancer

Having enjoyed singing at school, she decided to incorporate opera and burlesque into her act.

Now, she has been performing with the Wreckless Freeks for two years.

Little Bear's now known as 'The Bearded Lady'. PHOTO: PA Real Life) Little Bear's now known as 'The Bearded Lady'. PHOTO: PA Real Life)

She said: "At the start, friends and family feared my involvement would be degrading, or I'd be a spectacle, but I'm happy to show myself off.

"People are accepting and like what we do."

She has also since split with the boyfriend who encouraged her to stop shaving.

Little Bear withe fellow performer The Mighty Lurch. PHOTO: PA Real Life Little Bear withe fellow performer The Mighty Lurch. PHOTO: PA Real Life

Little Bear told how some people seem genuinely bewildered by her appearance, even questioning her gender or trying to take sneaky photographs of her.

“I’ve had comments like, ‘You should shave that’ and I’ve seen people take photos of me,” she said.

“One day at the supermarket a guy looked at me confused and I said to him, ‘Can I help you?’ and he was embarrassed.

Read more: This stylist is turning hair into actual works of art

“At first it hurt, but I just smile at them now or stare back.

“There would be more repercussions if I did shave, now that I’m a mouthpiece for PCOS and women with beards.

“I'm proud of who I am.”

-- PA Real Life

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