Can a model’s monobrow help women embrace body hair?
When the model Sophia Hadjipanteli accidentally tinted her blond eyebrows black, she decided to show off her non-normative body hair, rather than reach for the wax strips. It has worked wonders for her career. She has since amassed 169,000 Instagram followers and landed interviews with i-D and New York magazine, telling trolls: “I personally think my face looks better this way. Others disagree and that’s totally cool.”
Hadjipanteli’s brows take on the role of a Cindy Crawford or Marilyn Monroe beauty mole; they are the “imperfection” that highlights the picture-perfect quality of the rest of the package. Indeed, she is an example of how female body hair in the mainstream is still confined to gimmick and novelty, only acceptable if your appearance conforms to beauty standards in every other respect.
As with all social movements, the more privileged members of the group rise to the top. The policing of female body hair affects women of colour and trans women, for example, in a different way from most cis, white women. Truly hairy women do not have the option of making peace with a peach-fuzz of leg hair; they would be laughed at if they did not rise to the gruelling, expensive task of hair removal.
In 2014, the author Emer O’Toole wrote that, with Cameron Diaz praising a full bush on the Graham Norton Show, it would be the year of the hairy woman. I must have blinked and missed Angelina Jolie’s furry legs and the lush pubic hair poking out of Beyoncé’s leotard. I used to believe that women such as Diaz might kickstart a shift in our aesthetic sensibilities that would pave the way for women like me. Left unthreaded, my eyebrows would look exactly like Hadjipanteli’s and I would sport a thick moustache and coarse, black chin hair to rival the adolescent attempts at a beard of many a friend’s boyfriend.
I now realise that the white girl vanguard is not helping hairier women to feel normal and desirable in their natural state. All body hair is equal, but some body hair is more equal than other body hair. Excuse me if I don’t rejoice in Hadjipanteli’s popularity; it is just that natural hairiness will not be reclaimed until it is reclaimed for all women.