STROLLING around her local town in Montreal, Canada, Esther Calixte-Bea is wearing a lilac cardigan and a V-Neck summer mini dress and heels.
With the weather heating up, Esther peels off her cardigan and feels the breeze on her shoulders.
Esther Calixte-Bea has learnt to accept her body hairCredit: Esther Calixte-Bea
She first became self-conscious of her body hair at the age of 11, and her mum took her to get it waxed offCredit: Esther Calixte-Bea
However, Esther’s body hair quickly attracts attention.
Strangers are stopped in their tracks, some start pointing and sniggering while others are more blatant in their staring at the artist, 26.
Insults calling Esther ‘disgusting’ and a ‘freak’ don’t make her flinch, refusing to let the vile taunts intimidate her into covering her body.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Esther says: “I am super hairy and love my body.
“I have fuzz on my chest and facial hair and I’m so proud of it.
“I get bullied online and stared at in public since I stopped shaving and let my chest, stomach, leg and arm hair grow.
“But it doesn’t bother me, I love my body and I am redefining the definition of beauty.”
According to Esther, she hopes to demonstrate another kind of beauty with her decision to ditch years of shaving and waxing.
Esther was bullied for showing off her hair, but she knows people are just uneducatedCredit: Esther Calixte-Bea
Plus, the brunette beauty has had plenty of men racing to snap her upCredit: Esther Calixte-Bea
“I feel sorry for the people who criticise my appearance,” she says.
“The bullies and trolls are uneducated and refuse to accept that everyone has body hair, and it can be beautiful on men and women.”
Esther has thick black curly body hair on her chest, back, and bikini line. She also has hair on her face, sideburns, legs and arms.
“It certainly divides opinion,” she says. “For some people it’s confronting, for other people it is beautiful.
“I was 22 when I finally accepted my body hair and have the guts to show it off so you won’t catch me covering up for anyone.”
But Esther wasn’t always so body confident.
In fact, Esther, who grew up in Montreal, Canada, admits she used to be addicted to shaving and waxing spending hundreds of pounds a year at the beauticians to rid herself of unwanted body hair.
Esther’s body confidence worsened when she tried on a dress for her primary school prom, age 11.
“My V-neck dress exposed my hated black tufts of chest hair,” Esther recalls.
“My mum, who was very glamorous, was matter of fact and took me to have it waxed.
“I considered it normal because women of all ages and their legs waxed or shaved.”
Since the age of eleven Esther says she was shaving at least twice a week or waxing to keep her unwanted hair at bay,
“It was a constant problem for me,” she says.
“If I wanted to wear a crop top or low-cut jeans, I’d have to break out the razor or wax strips.
“Waxing became hugely expensive so I relied on razors but constant shaving led me to develop tell-tale red razor burn bumps.”
“I just wanted to be accepted and not teased.”
If Esther forgot to shave, she’d panic if other girls and boys would see her hairy parts and tease her like they did other teens who they labelled names like Chewbacca.
“If I didn’t shave every few days I’d have thick hair on my toes, back, face hair sideburns, chest hair and black hair shafts poking out on my arms and legs,” she says
“Once a kid pointed out my sideburns and the group of girls surrounded me all examining it, making me uncomfortable and feel ashamed.
“I was afraid because I didn’t want them to tell everyone at the school. So I raced home and shaved my sideburns.”
Esther didn’t date during her time in high school as she says she was never asked out but when she started studying for her visual arts degree at Connolly University, she found love for the first time.
“I started dating for the first time and met Brian* then 25, who I met on a dating app,” she recalls.
“I was 22 and it was my first real relationship.
“I had to shave my back and it was always a twisty turny experience.
“He noticed the hair on my back, and I decided to be honest about my almost daily shaving ritual.
“I explained that if I didn’t shave I would have extreme hair on the chest, back, arms and stomach.
“Brian was very cool about it and even said he liked it.
“It was really refreshing to be dating a man who accepted my body hair. It gave me more confidence in my own body.”
At the same time Esther started questioning her own attitude to body hair and why her body hair grew quickly.
“My GP confirmed I wasn’t suffering from a form of hirsutism,” she says.
“I wanted to know why I had more body hair than others.
“I get asked if I can send men pictures of my hair but the answer is always no of course.”
“My parents are from Haiti and the Ivory Coast, so I decided to investigate my ancestry.”
Esther quickly learnt from relatives on the Ivory Coast and their oralthat her ancestors were members of the WE Tribe there.
“I was told that many of the women from the tribe were extra hairy. It was considered a sign of beauty and,” she says.
Esther’s discovery empowered her to embrace her heritage and ancestry.
As part of her body acceptance journey and her university studies Esther decided to let her body hair grow and established the Lavender project in 2019.
“The Lavender project was a self-photography project about female body hair,” she says.
Esther decided to use the project to question what makes a female body feminine and why body hair that naturally grows on mature human bodies is treated as odd.
At the same time Esther stopped shaving and wore her favourite revealing crop tops, low-slung jeans anddresses.
“I decided to embrace my hairiness,” she says.
“I wanted to be proud and show other women they were not alone.”
And her project had the desired impact with her Instagram posts celebrated globally.
“I was inundated with women telling me how brave I was and how liberating the project was,” she says.
“I discovered I wasn’t alone, and this empowered me even more.
“I decided to become a body hair activist and challenge taboos.”
But not everyone supports Esther’s open approach to a hairy body.
“I soon realised you can only please half the people and the other half will hate you.”
But as well as cruel messages, Esther’s inbox is also full of marriage requests from men obsessed with female body hair who have some very unusual requests.
“I get asked if I can send men pictures of my hair but the answer is always no of course,” she explains.
“I am always respectful, it was an eye opener when I started getting those messages.”
As for the trolls Esther says she doesn’t care what they say.
“They’re simply uneducated,” she says. “Many just do it to cause trouble and for that they have my sympathy.”
“I think if they’re attacking me then at least they are not trying to upset some other girl who is trying to learn how to love her body.
“I now know body hair is beautiful. I am me and I am proud. Hairy bits and pits and all.”
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