If you’re looking for some serious inspiration, let us recommend Harnaam Kaur’s one essential beauty and fashion rule…
The British model, social activist and motivational speaker has always been vocal in her stance against bullying. She was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) as a teen and went on to endure years of relentless bullying after growing out her hair. But happily, she went on to inspire countless numbers of other people when she took to social media to share her message of empowerment.
And now, she has revealed the one beauty rule she lives by – and it’s definitely one we’ll be using ourselves.
Speaking at this year’s Stylist Live LUXE, Kaur said her beauty rule is: “my body, my rules”.
“When it comes to beauty and fashion, I wear what I want,” she told the audience. “I own my body, and I will do what I want with it.
“As long as I’m taking care of my emotional and mental welfare, then I will continue to do what I want.”
Kaur emphasised the importance of increasing diversity in the fashion and beauty worlds, pointing out that the world around us is diverse, so the campaigns we see in magazines and on TV should be, too.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t see anyone in magazines or on TV that looked like me,” she said. “That can have a horrid effect on a person’s mental health.
“It’s so important to know you belong. I want to show people that you can be different and beautiful at the same time.”
Kaur has also written an essay for Stylist’s new book, Beauty Reimagined, which is packed full of inspiring women who give social expectations the middle finger. You can read the full essay below:
“I was 16 years old when I decided to grow my facial hair. I made the decision after my GSCEs and let it grow out over the six-week summer holiday. So when I returned to my school in Slough for the sixth form, I was a girl with a beard.
It took several years for me to reach the point where I felt able to do this, and it was bullies that had pushed me to that point. Indian people can be quite hirsute anyway, and I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which is a hormonal disorder affecting one in 10 women worldwide. The condition affects how your ovaries work and the side effects can range from irregular periods and infertility to excess androgen – high levels of ‘male’ hormones in your body. This can mean that not only do you lose hair from your head, you might also have excess facial or body hair.
I didn’t actually realise that I had facial hair until I started being tormented for it. The bullying started in primary school – just casual taunts at first, like, ‘Harnaam’s got a moustache.’ I was in Year 6 when I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, wow, I really do have unwanted hair.
The bullying stepped up in secondary school. In my early teens, it was a case of just trying to get through the day, keep my mental health intact and not get beaten up. I was pushed against lockers, I was cornered and had balls kicked at me, I was stabbed in the hand with a pen… I even received death threats. They said they were going to burn my house down while I was sleeping. I suffered fat-shaming as well, including having food thrown at me (weight gain can also be a symptom of PCOS).
These experiences led me to have panic and anxiety attacks in school. It was around then that I started self-harming. I hated my body and I wanted to punish it because my body was the reason that I was being bullied. It was also a way of releasing energy and trying to gain control.
People who have not been through self-harm might find it hard to understand, but I just wanted to feel.
At my lowest point, I felt suicidal. I actually felt that the world would be better off without me in it. Then I had an epiphany: how dare I allow myself to feel like this when my bullies are happily going out and having fun? I reached a state where I felt like I’d been through everything. I’d heard every negative name you can imagine. There was nothing that anyone could say any more that was going to shockme. I had hit rock bottom and there was nowhere else for me to go. I had tried so hard to remove my beard every day and I was still bullied so I decided to try embracing my natural body. I thought, well, if you’re going to bully me, I’m going to give you something to bully me about.”
Our second book is a collection of essays by 11 women, including Caitlin Moran, Chidera Eggerue and Jess Glynne. Beauty Reimagined: Life Lessons On Loving Yourself Inside And Out (Penguin, £9.99) is available on Amazon now
Harnaam Kaur was speaking at Stylist Live Luxe
Main image: Mr Elbank
Other image: Brona McNeill
Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Follow her on Twitter