Montreal artist and body hair activist graces magazine cover to spread message of self-love
Esther Calixte-Bea appeared on the cover of the January edition of Glamour UK magazine
Montreal artist Esther Calixte-Bea made a splash last month, appearing on the cover of Glamour UK magazine to share with the world something that used to make her self-conscious: her chest hair.
Calixte-Bea said, to her knowledge, she's the first woman with chest hair to appear on any magazine cover.
She told CBC's Let's Go that she's proud to provide representation for women who embrace their natural body hair.
"I'm happy that people get to see themselves and I get to see myself on that cover because, growing up, I never got to see someone that was as hairy as I am on the cover. So I'm glad I got to be here for others."
Calixte-Bea first started growing hair on her chest at 11 years old. As she grew into her teens, she learned through magazines, movies, and personal experience that body hair on women was considered undesirable.
She tried hard to hide and remove her body hair, but razor bumps, ingrown hairs and scars made it difficult and painful.
"I was shaving, waxing," she said. "My body would react and fight against me."
"If it's not normal for women to have hair, why is my body fighting back? Why is my body acting this way?"
She slowly started to realize that her hair was part of her identity and she was "tired of living by other people's rules."
"I wasn't removing my body hair for myself," she said. "It's time to liberate myself and stop being in that dark place and be this new person, a person that's more authentic."
LISTEN | Esther Calixte-Bea talks about her role as a body hair advocate
Calixte-Bea caught the notice of Glamour UK through her body hair advocacy work, contributing to a British campaign called "Januhairy" in 2020.
The campaign challenges women to stop shaving their body hair for the month of January, as part of a larger goal to normalize women's body hair.
Making beauty more inclusive
This year, Glamour UK invited Calixte-Bea to grace the cover of their self-love issue.
Calixte-Bea said she's happy to be able to share her message of acceptance and is hoping her work will help redefine beauty standards.
"I know that I'm freeing a lot of women that are in that same dark place. And that are tired of having to look a certain way. And so I feel like what I'm doing is making beauty more inclusive."
Calixte-Bea is hoping women will stop being judged for "hair that naturally grows out of our skin" and hopes her work will spark an important conversation about gender double standards.
In 2019, she founded the Lavender Project, a photo project intended to challenge traditional notions of beauty, femininity, and body hair.
She said the feedback from people online has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I've been messaged by hundreds of women that tell me, 'Oh my gosh, I thought I was alone,'" she said.
Calixte-Bea's family is also thrilled to see how her work is being received on the world stage.
"I am very proud, my husband is proud, everyone is proud of her," said Betty Calixte, Esther's mother. "We hope she'll continue and keep helping other women."
Calixte-Bea recently finished her degree at Concordia University and is focused on her upcoming artistic projects, as well as continuing to spread the word of body hair positivity.
With files from CBC Montreal's Our Montreal and Let's Go