Esther “Queen Esie” Calixte-Bea embraces her body hair

"I hated being hairy, I didn’t understand why God would create me like this." At 11, she began hiding her body hair. Today, she shows it off.

“I want to show women that body hair is beautiful”

I want to show women that you can be beautiful with your body hair, you can look sexy with your body hair, and that your body hair is beautiful”. Esther Calixte-Bea aka Queen Esie is a body hair activist. “When I would completely remove it, I realized that now I look “normal,” but also, it wasn't me anymore, you know? When I looked in the mirror, like, “OK, now I'm just this normal girl and that's it,” you know? And so over time, I kind of realized that it became part of who I am, it became part of my identity”.

When did body hair become seen as "unfeminine"?

After struggling with her body image for years, she decided to stop removing her body hair for good in 2020. “Through high school, I wasn't questioning why I was removing my body hair. I wasn’t questioning society, I was just doing it because I had to. But when it started ... Because I was really, really depressed, I was going through it. I hated being hairy, even to the point that I would write down my diary, that I hated being hairy, I didn’t understand why God would create me like this”, says Queen Esie Body hair activist.  

I decided to challenge myself and to go out with my body hair and not shave my legs. It was really scary, but I made it happen, I pushed myself and I was like, “OK, you're going to wear short shorts and not shave your legs, and go out like that. I realized that if I pushed myself and I believed in myself, I could do it”

Woman with facial hair is challenging ideals of beauty

“You can redefine beauty for yourself”

She sometimes receives fetishizing messages from men… But since sharing her truth, she’s learned that she isn’t alone. “My aunt from Ivory Coast contacted me and was like, “Esther, this is completely normal that you're this hairy.” And I was like, “Oh, really? What?” And she let me know that she's also very hairy and women on my dad's side of the family are very hairy. They have hair on their face and on their chest as well”, explains Esther Calixte-Bea. 

She has the Guinness record for world's largest afro

As an artist,she’s turned her pain into her purpose. “I created the “Lavender Project.” I made this dress, this purple dress, which had two sides, one side that shows my chest and another side that covers it, to really display, kind of, express what I was going through, and what I felt, and the fear that I felt when someone might see my chest hair. And so, showing my chest hair for the first time and taking these pictures of myself at the park that was near my place and posting on Instagram was a really, really big step to my new life, and my new life of freedom”. 

The hair removal industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Queen Esther blames marketing and advertising for shaping a gendered rapport with body hair. “Your brain is like a computer and you need to program it. And through social media, and through movies and magazines, they have programmed us to show, to tell us what is beautiful and what is not. And so you have to program yourself and let yourself know that you are beautiful and that society has chosen what is beautiful and not, but you can choose for yourself. You can redefine beauty for yourself”, says the hair activist.

This natural hair activist fought for the right to braid hair