Despite the fact that razors have a highly specific purpose, it’s wild to think that up until three years ago, there still hadn’t been a single women’s razor ad that showed body hair. Not only is it bad advertising—what’s the point of showing a razor’s efficacy on already-shaved legs?—but this outdated strategy has upheld warped ideals of beauty for generations of women.
Georgina Gooley is changing that with Billie, a direct-to-consumer razor brand that essentially flips the women’s shaving category on its head. It’s affordable (razor subscriptions start at $9), cheerful, and in an age where body-positivity initiatives are a dime a dozen, it nails the message. Billie’s advertising has been inclusive in every sense of the word from day one, and six months after launching in 2017, it debuted its Project Body Hair campaign, the first-ever women’s razor ad to show body hair and outright say that shaving is a choice, not a requirement.
“If we’re not acknowledging body hair exists, it’s a form of body shaming,” Gooley tells Glamour. “There really has been this shame around having body hair, and a lot of that is the shaving category talking about the topic as a problem that needs to be fixed, and then you fix that with the product they are trying to sell. We didn’t want to be part of that conversation.”
Regardless, Billie is selling, and it’s bringing in bank. In 2019 the company received a $25 million investment—bringing its total funding since launch to $35 million.
Although the brand was born out of a desire to eliminate the pink tax (charging more for a product made “for women”), it’s really made its mark by not only delivering excellent products—the brand has recently expanded to beauty basics including a dry shampoo, face wipes, and tinted lip balms—but by speaking to women exactly how we want to be spoken to. While Project Body Hair and its follow up campaigns Red, White, and You Do You—the first ad showing visible pubic hair—and Movemeber are inherently radical, nothing about the videos feels put-on or showy. Instead the messaging is authentic, poignant, and refreshing.
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Hang on, why is there so much pressure to be "summer ready"? Magazines tell us to stop eating carbs in February, follow a 12 step routine to get the perfect beach bod, and to remove every last strand of hair before squeezing into a bathing suit. The 4th unofficially kicks off summer. So this summer, you do you. Let your hair down, maybe even out… we hope you’ll enjoy the breeze.
“When we were looking at how the entire category was depicting women, it was very much one note, which said, ‘If you’re a woman, you should be hairless,’” says Gooley. She notes that even though she personally shaves every day, she found it offensive and restricting that the media painted wome only in a specific light. So the brand decided to take a stand. “We really felt that there was a responsibility to challenge this notion that there was one way to look like a woman and really set the tone that shaving is a choice and not an expectation,” she says. “We decided we’re going to not only show body hair, but actually celebrate it, and celebrate a woman’s choice to do whatever she wants with it.”
Gooley has always had her finger on the pulse of what women are feeling, even in extreme circumstances like the current pandemic. On May 12, Billie released a short film called “Are We Doing Video?” The project was entirely conceived and shot over Zoom and shows the very real pressure women feel to apologize for their appearance on the plethora of video chats we’re suddenly attending.
“We’re continuing to challenge the societal pressures women feel to look a certain way, and that’s really been true of everything we do,” says Gooley. “We noticed that working on this project made us freer to open our video chats without hesitation. No more apologizing for bedhead, looking pasty, or feeling like a hot mess. We hope women everywhere start to feel the same sense of freedom. Of course, it’s going to take more than one film for us to completely stop apologizing for how we look, but we really hope it’s a start.”
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A lot of time spent on Zoom 👩💻 = a lot of looking at ourselves = a lot of knee jerk apologies for how we look. Sorry for my bags! my roots! my grays! You name it, we’ve apologized for it. But when we say sorry for that stuff, aren’t we really just apologizing for looking like… ourselves?
The fact that the brand sees shaving as part of a self-care routine, instead of a grooming routine, is what sets it apart. Gooley understands that some women feel their best with zero body hair, some feel best with full body hair, and it’s up to your desecration to change that at any time. She notes that she’s spoken to women about their shaving habits in quarantine, and while some are taking this time to grow out their hair and do away with shaving all together altogether, lots of women are actually taking this time to shave every day since it makes them feel good.
For Billie, it’s always been about meeting women where they are, and providing the best product possible, instead of enforcing some sort of unachievable ideal and enforcing rules. ”That really is the crux of what we came out with initially, which was a great women’s razor that’s priced the same as a men’s razor,” says Gooley. “Taking out any of the pink tax and talking to women the way that I wish someone was talking to me, which was not telling me how I should look or how I should behave.”
Since Project Body Hair’s initial launch in 2017, the body-hair market hasn’t changed drastically—there are still ads where women shave pelvis-high bushes into heart-shaped topiaries, and women’s razors are still often more expensive than men’s—but the industry is starting to take nods from Billie. In 2018, Gillette released an ad owning up to its outdated beauty standards and showcasing a range of body types, skin tones, and yes, visible hair. Razor brand Flamingo often posts hairy toes on its Instagram, and although celebrities with visible body hair still make headlines, it’s usually met with praise, not disgust.
“Project Body Hair was personal to me, personal to my team, and it’s been amazing to put that out there and have so many people not only care about the message but share their own body hair and rally together to change the stereotypes that we’ve been living with for so long,” says Gooley. “I’m super proud to be part of a team that created this, but also just really proud to be in a time when women are banding together. We’re not taking it anymore, right? The status quo isn’t good enough, and we’re going to rewrite it.”
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
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