“I’m a woman with hair on my face, and while I understand it’s not common, it doesn’t make me any less of a human being”.
Dakota is a 23-year-old Southern Californian woman training to be a Human Blockhead sideshow performer. Her love and tolerance of pain started at a young age when she was forced to wax her facial hair. Below Beardspo gets to know the woman who says becoming a bearded lady was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
Can you describe what life growing up for you was like?
As a child I remember moving around a bit, from Ventura County to Echo Park before they cleaned it up, to the upper ninth ward in New Orleans (Pre Katrina) and then back to California. I feel incredibly lucky that I did get to move around like that, and to experience the things that I did. I feel like moving, meeting people and living in the places I lived gave me a different perspective than a lot of children had. But I think it also added to my depression. I didn’t fit in with most kids back in California, I spent a lot of time being the odd child out. As I grew older I embraced and accepted it by doing things like cutting off all of my hair and being one of the only kids in my school at the time to get heavily into politics and verbally oppose the church being allowed to come to the school and recruit children for youth group.
When did you first realise you were growing excess body hair and facial hair?
I think at around thirteen I noticed my sideburns were growing longer and the hair on my chin was getting darker but it wasn’t until I was fourteen that it really resembled a full beard.
How did you react initially?
Initially I don’t remember having much of a reaction to it, but the people around me did. A friend of my step father’s asked him about it and the next thing I knew I was being dragged off to a hairstylist friend of his to have it waxed off.
Was the hair growth because of a medical condition or side effects to medication?
When I was eighteen or nineteen I went to an endocrinologist for the first time. After months of blood work he came to the conclusion that my beard was caused by an adrenal glandular disorder. He explained to me that my adrenal gland produces too much adrenaline which makes my brain produce too much testosterone.
Have you tried to hide it in the past? If so how?
I mentioned before how my step dad took me to the hairdressers to have my beard waxed. He did this every month for a long time until the hairdresser and I had a falling out over her using some very derogatory terms and I refused to step foot in her shop ever again. I found a new place, a nail salon that did waxwings and waxed my face. It became routine, I pay the sensation of pain in my face when it came to waxing. I moved to Hollywood when I was nineteen and found a new place. Once a month I would get pirozhkis and my face waxed. When I lost my job I I couldn’t afford to keep paying for it. I bought a little electric hair trimmer and deluded myself to believing that I wasn’t shaving, I was just trimming it, because women didn’t shave. There was no shame in waxing it because people did that all the time, but I didn’t shave and I sure as heck didn’t have a beard because women didn’t have beards. I wasn’t in a great place then.
What was school life like for you?
Middle school was hard, I had spent my life moving around seeing amazing things and then my mom settled and married a man who lived in a very small town. To this day I think there’s only something like five stop lights in town. The size of the town wasn’t what bothered me, it was the people. Fillmore, CA was once in the Guinness book of world records for having the most number of churches in a single square mile. Our only other claim to fame is the train, which has been used in movies like Seabiscuit, Water for Elephants, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and N’Sync’s Bye, Bye, Bye video. The people I went to school with lived twenty minutes from the beach but had never seen the ocean. A lot of them blindly repeated things their parents said. I spend a lot of time connecting with teachers, I spent a lot of time in the library, I fit in more with the adults around me than I did the students. One of my favorite teachers was my seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Hood. He was an awesome old hippie who loved Monty Python.He made school bearable for me. After Middle school I refused to attend the high school in Fillmore for having the lowest test scores in the state at the time and for screening Disney’s Pocahontas as part of the curriculum. Not to mention I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of hazing, which they still allowed. My mom pulled me out of school and allowed me to be homeschooled, for which I am eternally thankful.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do and what your career ambitions are?
I work for a company called better-records.com, if any of your readers are audiophiles, I’m sure they’ll know the name. We go to record stores and find the pressing of records that were pressed with the best sound quality. We buy those, and clean them up, grade them and then sell them to fellow audiophiles across the world. I’m an aspiring sideshow performer and have been learning from a friend who has been in the sideshow business for close to ten years.
What would you say your hobbies are?
Oh wow, I have a few. I love to read when I have the time, and I love to write. I bake cupcakes, I go see old movies, I desperately await whatever new Marvel film is coming out. I do yoga and workout twice a week, swimming is fun too. I’ve also recently found a love for crafting and am learning to make bows. Oh and learning new sideshow tricks. I’m getting pretty good at the human blockhead.
Have your family and friends been supportive with your facial hair growth?
My friends have all been extremely supportive of my beard growth, they all want me to be happy, my friend Melanie just bought me a beard facial wash kit. My girlfriend actively loves my beard and my mom told me from the first moment I brought it up that she just wants me to be happy, and while my step dad was a little iffy at first, he’s grown to accept it.
It’s awesome to see you rocking the bearded lady image, at what moment in life did you come to terms with your appearance?
I don’t think it was any one moment. I had a moment about two years ago when I was recovering from a trauma, and I was finally getting the help I needed to get to living a mentally healthier life. I had an epiphany and I was able to really see myself for the beautiful person I am. That was around the time I first posted a picture of myself in a bathing suit. It was the moment I accepted my body that lead to be being able to accept the rest of me.
At the end of December 2014 I got laryngitis, I was in bed for two weeks, and in that time when I did shower, I didn’t bother worrying about my beard. When I got over being sick I remember thinking that it wasn’t quite so bad, but I shaved it off nonetheless. About a week or so later I was talking to a friend. I jokingly commented about me becoming a bearded lady and her immediate encouragement really made me think about it. After talking with my girlfriend about it and finding out what she thought I decided to go for it. It’s been four months and I think it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.
How did it feel to let go of your worries and let it grow?
When it first started growing I was a little nervous, but I liked seeing the progress of growth. I started snapchatting my friends once a week with my beard growth for the week, then I started posting my progress on Instagram. It felt freeing and for the first time since I was probably about eight years old, I feel really really happy.
Who are you most influenced by?
I’m influenced by the people who gawk at me, the guy who almost got into a car accident because he was paying too much attention to me outside of the gym to watching where he was driving. I’m influenced by the guy who told me that I need to shave it to “get the dick I obviously need”. I’m influenced by the guy who tried to sneak pictures of me and the woman who did the same. I’m influenced by the girl on Instagram who leaves nasty comments. I’m influenced by all of these people because they prove why I need to do this. They are showing the worst of themselves by being horrified at the sight of me. I’m a woman with hair on my face, and while I understand it’s not common, it doesn’t make me any less of a human being; and the fact that these people were so appalled by the sight of me they they had to react as if I was less of a person is the reason I continue to do this.
Do you find seeing other bearded women speaking out about their conditions and struggles has helped you to accept yourself?
By the time I started seeing the other bearded ladies and speaking to them, I had already accepted myself for what I am, but I’ve found being able to talk to them has really helped with the feeling of isolation you feel after doing something like this. The first month was a little isolating, I stopped posting pictures on Facebook and stopped talking to people out of fear that they would ask me what I was up to and be disgusted when I told them. Then I found the other bearded ladies on Instagram. I followed them, commented one or two times, but it wasn’t until I found Annalisa Hackleman that I really got to ask the questions I had been wondering about and far as beard growth went. Now I have spoken with a few more of them, we encourage each other and talk about things. I think it’s great having a community of ladies who know what the other is going through.
Do you want to become a parent one day? What advice would you give your daughter if they had a similar condition?
When I was first going through the diagnosis process they told me that there was a good chance I would never have kids. I mourned for the lost idea of children and then I moved on. A month and a half later they told me I would be able to have children whenever I want to. At this point in my life, I have friends with children and I see them pretty often but I have no desire to have children of my own. I’m only 23, I can hardly take care of myself let alone a child!
If I did have a daughter in the future and she did have the same thing as me, I would tell her everything I went through; the emotional distress that was always on my mind when I wasn’t shaving, the way I would get razor burn on my face or how I would get ingrown hairs and scrape my face up and bleed. I would tell her that loving yourself is the most important thing you can do in this life, and if you love yourself without the beard, that’s fine, and if you love yourself with the beard, that’s fine too. Sometimes people need to make these decisions in their own time.
What do you think is your most attractive feature?
If we’re talking about physical features, I’d say my nose is pretty great, my lips are a nice shape too and my eyes sometimes look golden brown in the sun, plus I have a pretty snazzy beard, so you can’t beat that. Also my hair has been hella fierce lately, so that’s a definite plus. So I guess my face in general? As for other features I’m rather fond of my wit, my ability to make puns and my obsession with sharks.
What do you do on ‘down days’ to feel beautiful?
I usually end up doing my nails or trying on a new lipstick or any new cosmetics and watching Marvel films. I’m obsessed with Maybelline’s 24 hour lip stain! I tried it, gave it the 24 hour test, it lasted, it even stayed looking good when I finished a bowl of spaghetti.
What advice would you give to young bearded ladies who have yet to come to terms with their condition?
The best advice I ever got was when I was fourteen and I went to a screen test. The director told me “Don’t lose yourself in a role, find yourself”. I think that advice fits perfectly here. Don’t lose yourself trying to hide this part of your being, because the harder you try to hide it, the more energy you put into being someone you’re not, then the harder it will be to love yourself. How can you expect to survive this world if you don’t love yourself?
What do you most look forward to in the future?
I look forward to learning new sideshow acts, I’m getting pretty good with the human blockhead, But I want to be proficient at one act before I move on to another.
What do you think makes a beautiful woman?
I think what makes a beautiful woman is passion, a drive for intelligence and just happiness. There’s someone who tells me every time he sees me how beautiful I am since I started growing my beard and I believe that it’s because for the first time, I’m really, truly happy.