Virtually Hairless

Ew! Body hair on women is gross! But should it be? Prickly hairs or smooth pixels, will the stigmatization of women’s body hair ever end?

A collage of images of Jazmin when she was 11 and 12 years old on top of a crumpled paper textured background. The images have pieces of tape and written words on them that read Bigfoot, Unibrow, Moustache, and Gross.

Listen to this story:

I feel like I’m an avatar.

I don’t mean one of those blue creatures from the movie Avatar, but a customizable avatar you create online to look like you.

I’m supposed to choose my physical features from a list of options and variations — except I am not actually in control of the way I look. I didn’t get to choose my physical attributes. My genes, my environment, and society created me. 

My real body is not up to code, and so I must do what I can to customize it to fit societal standards of conventional beauty. The options change with trends, popular culture, and the beauty industry.  

Female avatars have a particularly strict code.

Some customizations for female avatars, like hair or eye colour, have various acceptable options, but others, like body size or body hair, are limited.

Customizing your avatar to have body hair is forbidden. It’s not even an option. Like Voldemort, no one wants to speak its name, but everyone knows it’s there. 

If you want your avatar to be accepted by society, you must hide or remove body hair at ALL costs.

The idea of women being avatars scares me, yet the beauty industry has been reinforcing this idea for generations. With technology comes new ways to keep women in line, including AI fashion models and influencers: literal female avatars.

AI fashion models and influencers are digital models created and customized online using artificial intelligence. These models are sometimes based on real people, but all AI models can be customized and manipulated into doing, saying, or wearing anything their creators wish.

Creating an AI model is a lot like creating an avatar: you select your customizations and create your perfect woman, but the idea of making the perfect woman should not exist.

The current technology on the AI model creation platforms, like, only allows certain customizations, including body size, skin colour, and hairstyle. I am sure you can guess what is not customizable: body hair.

I experimented with several AI model platforms and tried to create a model that looked like me, body hair and all, but it wasn’t possible.

Not only are AI models free from body hair, but some AI model platforms even remove body hair from real women. Platforms like BotikaVmake AI, and VModel AI invite users to insert a photo, and they change the model in the photo to an AI person. When you insert an image of a woman with body hair, these platforms automatically remove or lessen the amount of body hair.

So, what does this mean for naturally hairy women and the future of the beauty industry? What happens when your avatar breaks this body hair rule?

A graphic of creating an avatar with the words “Design Your Perfect Woman!” on top. There is a female AI model on the left and avatar selection options on the right. The selected category is body hair and the three options to choose from are all “None.”
AI model created using


Let’s start by selecting the perfect legs. Here are your options:

  1. Long, smooth, and skinny.
  2. Short, smooth, and skinny.

Which would you like to choose?

Our grade five class walked into the gym and split into the gendered change rooms.

The girls’ change room smelled musty and had off-white brick walls covered with writing that said anything from “You’re a slut” to “I love you.” 

I put my gym bag on the bench and took out my gym shorts. All the other girls did the same, chatting as they got changed. I pulled off my leopard-print leggings and slid on my black, baggy gym shorts. I sat on the bench and waited for my friends to finish changing.

The conversations stopped when my best friend turned around to face me.

“Why do your legs have so much hair on them?” she said.

Everyone else in the changeroom turned and stared. I looked down at my legs and froze. I didn’t know what to say.

My best friend pointed at my legs and chuckled.

“You look like Bigfoot,” she said.

The room swirled with laughter as I sat there frozen, staring down at my furry legs.

I had never noticed my leg hair before. I knew it was there, but it was just a part of my body I never thought twice about.

I looked at the other girls’ legs and saw they looked smooth and hairless. Looking back now, perhaps they did have some hair, but it definitely wasn’t as dark, thick, or long as the hair on my legs.

What’s wrong with me?

I felt like Bigfoot, and 10 years later I still sometimes do. Just like a sasquatch, I feel ugly, different, shameful, and that I should hide my body hair — and myself — from the world.

The option “hairy legs” is not valid. Please select a valid option.

A few months after being called Bigfoot, I dragged a blade across my leg for the first time. I felt resistance, but I kept going anyway.

With each pull of the razor, the little hairs fell to the bottom of the bathtub like little black sprinkles.

Once I became aware of my leg hair, I realized I had way more hair than other people. My friends, family, and the women on TV were all virtually hairless.

Sitting in the tub, I stretched out my legs and shaved my knee. I remember my hand jumping back as little spots of blood began to pool.

The women in the razor commercials never cut themselves. They never felt the resistance of long hairs fighting against the slice of the blade, because their razors glided smoothly across legs that were already smooth and hairless.

I never saw a woman with body hair in the razor advertisements because there weren’t any razor advertisements that had women with body hair.

I didn’t want to be different anymore though. I’d bleed to fit in.

Great choice!


Next up are the arms. Please select one of the following options:

  1. Long, smooth, and hairless.
  2. Short, smooth, and hairless.

I hadn’t been outside long, but sweat was already dripping down my forehead. 

While all the other kids ran around in short-sleeved tops and shorts, I was bundled up in a sweater and leggings.

It was many fifth graders’ favourite day: track and field day. This meant a lot of time spent outside and a lot of physical activity. I didn’t care how hot I was though. I refused to take off my sweater. I didn’t want anyone to see my hairy arms.

My friends were asking me all day why I wasn’t taking my sweater off. I would tell them I was cold, but it was obvious I wasn’t because of the sweat stains.

I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. I didn’t want to hear any more comments or questions about what I was wearing, but I knew if I took my sweater off, the questions and comments would only get worse.

Covering up is a good temporary option, but try doing something more permanent.


Here is your customization option:

  1. Smooth and hairless.

I’m not the only woman who has stories like this.

Jovana Cvijic is a 21-year-old Serbian woman who has lived in Winnipeg for 10 years.

In Modriča, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina where she grew up, Jovana was running around playing on the street with her preteen friends and neighbours. She was wearing a short-sleeved top that day (and likely everyone else was too).

“What is that?” asked one of the boys she was playing with.

“What’s what?” Jovana asked back.

“Lift your arm,” the boy commanded.

With a look of confusion, Jovana lifted her arm in the air.

“What is that?” he asked again as he pointed at her armpit.

Jovana looked down and saw little strands of hair sprouting from her armpit. She quickly pulled her arm back down and felt the heat of embarrassment on her face.

She tried to forget what the boy said but couldn’t, so she begged her mom for a razor.

Smooth and hairless is the best (and only) choice!


Next up, the eyebrows. These are a beautiful defining feature of the female face, so choose wisely! Here are your customization options:

  1. Thin and long.
  2. Defined and pointed.
  3. Laminated.
  4. Microbladed.

I was feeling down that day.

Someone came to our grade six class to present on the importance of having a friend to rely on. I remember they said everyone needed someone to confide in and talk through their issues with, but I didn’t feel like I had anyone I trusted enough to talk to.

After the presentation, it was art class, back with our regular teacher. He was in his late 20s or early 30s and wore a plaid shirt and jeans.

He could tell something was bothering me. I was the little girl who followed all the rules and listened to my teachers, so it was odd I wasn’t colouring my piece of the mosaic for our class project.

My head was in my hands, and I was staring down at my paper, which looked like a bunch of weird lines without the context of the other pieces.

He came and sat beside me and flipped over my paper.

“Let’s draw Jazmin,” he said.

He started drawing my head, then my hair, then my eyes, nose, and mouth. He described what he was drawing with each stroke of the pencil.

He looked up at my face and back down at the paper, trying to get my features right.

I didn’t know why he was drawing me. Maybe it was to make me laugh or cheer me up, but it wasn’t working. I stared at his drawing.

He looked back up at me.

“Can’t forget the unibrow!” he exclaimed.

My eyes widened with shock, but my body froze. I felt my cheeks turn red with embarrassment. I hoped no one else heard what he said.

I looked down at the paper and saw the pencil moving in small vertical lines from one side of the face to the other.

He drew me with a unibrow.

A photo of 12-year-old Jazmin on the right and a simple drawing of Jazmin with a unibrow on the left on top of a crumpled paper textured background.
Me when I was 12 years old.

I can’t imagine what was going through his head when he decided to draw that. Perhaps he genuinely thought it would cheer me up or make me laugh, perhaps he regretted those words right after they came out of his mouth, or perhaps he felt no shame.

Even if he wished he could take it back, his regret would never compare to my shame. I wonder if he has ever thought about that day again. I haven’t been able to forget it.

The unibrow is a banned customization. Please select a more socially acceptable option.

Upper Lip

Here is the customization option for your upper lip:

  1. Smooth and hairless.

Please select an option.

I stared at myself in the mirror. The bleach on my upper lip made me look like I had a huge milk moustache.

I scrunched my nose in disgust. The smell made my nose burn, but I knew the 10 minutes of discomfort would be worth it to turn the black hairs blonde.

I looked down at the timer to see how much longer I had to wait. There was still another four minutes.

The tingling and burning were getting worse. I desperately wanted to wipe the bleach off my face and relieve the sting, but I held out.

I just wanted to look like every other 12-year-old girl: hairless and beautiful.

The burning made my eyes water.

Hopefully, this will stop the bullying.

It didn’t.

Good try, but hair, bleached or not, is not an acceptable option. Please try again and select something more attractive.

Puberty seems to be a common thread in these stories, perhaps because that’s when we first start to get body hair, and we have to decide what to do with it. People going through puberty are also often very self-conscious and waking up to how we measure up to beauty standards. It’s a tender time of change and trying to discover who we are and where we fit. Going through puberty leaves us impressionable and influenced by these types of negative experiences.

Perhaps that’s why it still affects how I view myself today.

These memories are ingrained in me and have formed the person I am, for better or worse. I want to be comfortable in my body the way it naturally is, but I don’t know if I can be.

Looking back at that broken little girl who felt like Bigfoot, not much has changed. I’d love to say I have overcome it and learned to love my body, but that just isn’t true. 

The thoughts and worries will always be in the back of my head. I am terrified someone will comment on my body hair, and I’d rather remove it or hide it than be in that position again.

I still feel ugly. I still feel like Bigfoot. I still feel like an avatar.

Thank you for creating a female avatar that reinforces conventional beauty standards.

Three photos of female AI models with the words “Thank you for reinforcing conventional beauty standards!” above them. There are avatar creation menu options vertically in the middle and graphic data-like lines and dots stemming from them toward the AI models.
AI models created using

Hair removal has been a part of our society for millennia.

Early humans removed the hair on their heads and faces to “avoid frostbite from water becoming trapped and frozen against the skin,” according to Refinery29.

Hair removal then transitioned into a form of hygiene and cleanliness in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians removed all the hair from their bodies, even the hair on their heads, according to ELLE.

Body hair then became a sign of class during the Roman Empire. Women were expected to remove their pubic hair to be “civilized,” but Refinery29 said having a unibrow was in.

Body hair expectations and “trends” have varied over time, yet there has been a standard, specifically for women, that we must adhere to if we are to be beautiful, “civilized,” and respected.

You may be thinking the lack of representation for women’s body hair is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it is something most women think about regularly. I like to imagine what else I could have used my energy, time, and money on if I wasn’t worried about getting rid of my body hair.

We should not be forced to change the way our bodies naturally are to be accepted in society. Society needs to change to accept us.

There are endless stories I could tell, both about myself and other women. I have tried nearly every hair removal option: shaving, plucking, waxing, sugaring, threading, bleaching, and hair removal creams, and the next thing I’ll be trying is laser hair removal. Will it ever end?

Why should I have to put my body through this to feel beautiful?

Beauty brands and influencers have a huge effect on woman and girls. They create the standards women must live up to or be punished.

I understand these brands make money by making women feel like they need to change their appearance, but what does that mean for us as a society if we have to break down others to build up ourselves?

Some brands influence women to buy products by empowering them. The brands I want to support align with my values and make me feel good about myself. If more beauty brands believed in uplifting their consumers as a business strategy, the whole industry would be more open to differences and “imperfections.”

Some women naturally don’t have much body hair, but being virtually hairless isn’t enough.

Lovely Cunanan is a 21-year-old Filipino woman who has lived in Canada for 10 years. Although she never had much body hair, she was still subject to its shame. Like every other woman, Lovely was expected to deal with (get rid of) her body hair.

She never thought much about the little amount of body hair she had until grade seven. Shaving became a big topic with her friends, but Lovely had never shaved before.

“I can’t believe some girls don’t shave,” one girl would say.

“I know. That’s so gross,” another would reply.

Lovely felt gross, so she went home that day and shaved off the few hairs on her legs.

Even with all this societal pressure, some women, like Bolu Akinola, have regained their confidence and feel comfortable with body hair.

Bolu is a 21-year-old Nigerian woman living just outside of Winnipeg.

For a long time, Bolu tried to hide her body hair by wearing long-sleeved shirts and eventually felt forced to shave her legs. But after four to five years of shaving, she realized her body hair is natural and doesn’t make her any less of a person.

She can confidently wear a short-sleeved shirt with arm hair and shorts with leg hair, and likely because of her confidence, no one makes comments about it. Perhaps people are also less likely to comment about someone else’s appearance at this age, but just because people don’t make comments doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking them.

Confidence and assurance in your body usually come with age and maturing, but many women, including myself, are still struggling to find that confidence.

Even though I have a lot of body hair, I am privileged. I am a white, able-bodied, thin, cisgender woman. Being conventional and adhering to these beauty standards makes my “imperfections” and body hair more palatable.

That’s likely why if a supermodel posts a picture with armpit hair, they don’t get the same hate every other woman would get because they are conventionally beautiful in every other way.

This also means multiple deviations from the conventional beauty standards make your “imperfections” less acceptable. In order to normalize normal bodies, more beauty brands need to show a variety of different women with a variety of different “imperfections.”

Instead, large brands, including Levi Strauss & Co., Maybelline New York, Prada, and Valentino, are starting to use AI fashion models and AI influencers in their campaigns, advertisements, social media, and fashion shows.

Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela) is an AI influencer who has partnered with several fashion and beauty brands and currently has 2.6 million followers on Instagram. All the work Miquela does and the money she makes go to her creators, Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou. According to Harper’s BAZAAR, Miquela has modelled in multiple magazines, including HypebeastV Magazine, and Vogue.

In 2018, Time named her one of the 25 most influential people on the internet, along with Kylie Jenner, Donald Trump, and Kanye West.

Miquela’s skin looks like smooth plastic. There isn’t one hair on her body.

We are already using AI and filters to fix our “imperfections,” but AI fashion models are taking the idea of perfection to another level. What will happen to the narrative of women’s body hair when more brands begin using AI models that are not only hairless but not even human?

That future is scary.

Some brands and influencers are fighting these standards. Billie is a razor and body care brand that embraces body hair and women’s autonomy over it. According to Glamour, in 2018, Billie became the first razor brand to air an advertisement with women’s body hair. This was four years after I first started shaving my legs.

Would seeing an ad like this have helped me feel normal? It might have helped me realize my body hair isn’t shameful, and I can be in control of my choices.

If more brands, ads, and female figures are confident in showing body hair and “imperfections,” more women will feel confident about it too, but that won’t happen if the beauty and fashion industry becomes consumed by AI models. These empowering efforts could easily be shaved down by the smooth pixels of an AI model’s skin.

I don’t want the next generation of women to grow up feeling how I felt about myself. Something needs to change. 

Perhaps beauty brands and influencers should make women feel beautiful. Perhaps there is a way to influence women by empowering their differences and “imperfections.” Perhaps this would create genuine relationships and brand loyalty with their customers.

I stare at my body hair in the mirror wanting so badly to feel confident about it. Maybe acceptance is my first step toward finding confidence: I am not a perfect avatar. I am hairy, and I am a woman.

Headshot of Jazmin Foster.

Jazmin Foster

Jazmin (she/her) is a fashion lover and feminist who loves using her positive energy to make people smile. She aspires to influence social justice through creativity and strategy in her career.
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