WHEN Harnaam Kaur goes out for a walk, she takes her loyal pup, Kai – but this is no ordinary pet.
The Rottweiler is a trained guard dog, tasked with protecting the 31-year-old from the wave of abuse she has received for years for being a woman with a fully grown beard.
Harnaam suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCSO), which caused her to start growing facial hair at the age of 14 – and painted a target on her back for school bullies.
In the decades that followed, she has received death threats in the street, been singled out for abuse on social media and seen her romantic life suffer as warped dates target her as a "get".
However, in a new documentary with Stacey Dooley, the brave woman explains how she has learned to love her facial hair – proudly walking at London Fashion Week and appearing on the covers of Vogue Japan, Teen Vogue and Cosmo India.
Speaking in the show, Harnaam, from London, says: “I’m here looking the way I do for a reason and I am going to shout about it.
“I want people to love their bodies and to be proud of them rather than wishing they looked a different way. The mind is our most powerful tool and we can teach it to love ourselves."
School bullies left bearded girl on brink of suicide
In the new documentary, Harnaam returns to her old school, where she was relentlessly bullied over her looks and driven to the brink of suicide.
Despite attempts to pluck, shave and wax her beard to make it less visible, nothing worked, so at 16 she decided to grow it out.
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“I struggled with deep psychological trauma," she explains.
"I felt as a young girl that no one was listening to me. I overdosed in the girls' bathroom and wrote a suicide note in the school library that was laughed at by other girls.”
Speaking exclusively to The Sun ahead of Stacey Sleeps Over: with Body Positive Warrior Harnaam Kaur, she says: “School was my hell on Earth.
“Filming that part of the documentary was really daunting because I had to then relive all the trauma that it caused.
“Because of what I went through there, I used to get a lot of panic attacks.
"I remember going up to the teacher to grab a book because she was handing them out. And as I walked back to my seat this boy stabbed a pen into my hand.
“I'd get threats like, ‘Oh, we know where you live, so we're gonna burn your house down.’ People would mime slitting my throat at me.”
One in ten women in the UK suffers from PCSO, meaning Harnaam is far from alone. The side effects differ widely from fatigue through to body hair growth and infertility.
The condition elevates levels of testosterone in sufferers, which causes extra body hair often on the face, back or bottom.
After meeting Harnaam for the documentary, presenter Stacey said: “It’s hard to comprehend the emotional journey she has been on.
“This strong woman has turned her back on what we are supposed to subscribe to. Harnaam is resilient, courageous, unapologetically herself. The best is yet to come.”
Despite Harnaam spending most of her teenage years hating her facial hair, she has since learned to love it and reckons it acts as a sieve for toxic people.
I'd get threats like, ‘Oh, we know where you live, so we're gonna burn your house down.’ People would mime slitting my throat at me
She said: “If someone can look past the beard and see me as a human they’re normally a nice person. The people that judge it are the kind I don’t want in my life.”
This distrust led to Harnaam being skeptical of people's intentions, including Stacey's, but eventually she concluded she was “genuinely nice”.
Normally, the influencer is subjected to death threats from people who live in her local area.
Out of fear for her and her family's lives, she asked to use an Airbnb for the hour-long special, which is usually filmed at the subject’s home.
Despite Harnaam's hopes that life would be better outside of the classroom, she was wrong. In fact, it's worse and more abusive than ever.
She said: “Things aren’t getting better for people who look or are a bit different.
“I don’t just get it in the street, I get it in my home through my social media accounts because they’re public.
“People aren't being held accountable for the way that they are. It's easy to hide behind various profiles and just spit all this abuse."
Guard dog for protection
There are even groups on social media dedicated to getting rid of Harnaam because she doesn’t conform to religious or traditional definitions of femininity.
She often has to report death and rape threats to the police and got her guard dog, Kai, to ensure she is safe when out and about.
During the documentary, she is shown at a training session with the Rottweiler as they learn how to attack on command in case she ever needs protection.
She said: “He makes me feel safe. He is the reason I can go out past a group of five or six-foot-something men and not feel scared.”
Shockingly, Harnaam often finds the police aren’t willing to do anything about the threats on her life unless she researches the person herself before reporting them.
She said: “I had one guy who threatened to pull his strap (gun) out on me if he saw me around. He actually lived near my family home so I started to get the police involved. But they wouldn’t actually do anything until I had dug out all these details myself.
“It feels like they won't do anything until I get shot in the head or something.”
She’s even been told by cops to shut down her social media if she wants to avoid the abuse, which Harnaam likens to women being told to not wear a skirt unless they want to get sexually harassed.
'Dates just want to try me'
Despite abuse worsening every time she does something in public, Harnaam won't let the trolls stop her.
Plus the beard has one unexpected bonus – she can use the men's loos when the line for the women’s is too long without anyone batting an eyelid.
However, it does make it harder for her to find love as she fears dates see her as a notch on their bedpost or a fetish to tick off.
Harnaam said: “I think some people want to just try me. We live in such a narrow-minded world these days and it's hard.
“I would obviously love to find someone and settle down… It's just proving a bit difficult.”
I think some people want to just try me. We live in such a narrow-minded world these days and it's hard
She is determined to broaden people’s minds and has even started her own make-up company which only features models with a difference.
The proud businesswoman said: “This has been in the works for two years but we’re finally there.
“I want to use it to celebrate everyone out there, from trans people to those with vitiligo, port wine stains etc."
She is seen doing the shoot during the documentary but admits she was a bit disheartened when some of her models pulled out.
She said: “I can’t change opinions on my own. Whenever I’m offered a chance to be a part of something I will do it, even if I’m exhausted or feeling like a panic attack. I just tell myself to get my s**t together and turn up.
“We should all tell our stories and share our appearances because that’s how we make people listen and make a difference.”
Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over: Body Positive Warrior will premiere on W on Tuesday March 8th at 9pm.
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