With her bright turban, flawless makeup and perfectly groomed beard, Harnaam Kaur is used to turning heads. But it’s her warm persona, infectious laugh and unapologetic Slough accent that truly capture my attention when we meet.
The 26-year-old, nicknamed The Bearded Lady, was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome after she began to develop facial hair in her teens. She’s spent recent years raising awareness of the condition and working as an anti-bullying campaigner, but now, the activist is turning her attention to self-love through her brand Treasures Within.
Kaur truly believes harnessing the power of self-love can create major change. In fact, she said it could even “stop war”.
HuffPost UK spoke to her for our regular Fierce series at the Treasures Within #LoveThySelf event, which included panel discussions, songs and poems on the theme of self-love.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and keep pushing forward?
“We all have a purpose in life and I believe this [being an activist] is mine, so that’s one of my driving forces. The second driving force is knowing that I’m actually making a difference to people’s lives. Knowing that women are saying that their young daughters are looking up to me now, knowing that I’ve helped someone to not commit suicide. Getting messages like that are very powerful.
“I would also say my haters motivate me, as cliché as that may sound, but they really do. They make me realise how much of a lack of knowledge there is about my condition and people that are different. Because of their ignorance, I want to keep pushing forward and educating people.”
What was the last thing you did that made you proud?
“This right here [the #LoveThySelf event]. There are so many people that don’t spend enough time loving themselves and there are so many people that go through so many difficulties. I wanted to make a brand [Treasures Within] where people can actually stand up and talk - I’ve given a platform to other people to voice their opinions.
“With my brand, I go to different places like youth centres and colleges to promote body confidence. I’m an anti-bullying activist, so I talk about that as well and I like to hold events like this where I’m able to promote such amazing things.”
Who inspires you and why?
“I don’t have an inspiration, I don’t have a role model. I like to meet different people and gain something from their experiences and their lives. I take inspiration and worth through what they’ve gone through.
“I don’t have one person I look up to always, apart from the person that I am, if that makes sense. I just look up to the person that I was yesterday and I just try to better myself whichever way I can.”
How do you think society views ambitious and successful women?
“I think there’s a part of society that is very for women being confident and being empowered, but I think there’s another part of society that feels very threatened by women being powerful.
“I know that for me personally, a lot of people feel threatened by me and my stance. I’m an Indian woman, I’m a woman of colour, I have a turban, I have a beard, and I think because my voice is so powerful, people forget that I have this image [and] still feel threatened by it. I’m very outspoken, I speak about anything and everything and I don’t shy away.
“Because of the feminist movement, a lot of women are feeling way more empowered to be themselves and do what they want to do in life.”
Does success have a downside? If so, what is it?
“I think it does. The more successful you get and the more out there you are in the world, the more vulnerable you are and the more you are open to hate, especially because of social media.
“But it also depends what you class as success, because someone could do something mean and class that as success for them. But for me, if you’re doing something positive that’s allowing someone to have a better wellbeing, or embrace their life more, [you have to] go for it, but know there’s always going to be people who hate on you for doing what you’re doing.”
How do you practise self-care and why is it important?
“It depends, it can be something as simple as pampering myself with a Lush bath at home or just doing my nails. Little, simple things give me a lot of joy, even watching a movie by myself or cooking by myself, or applying my makeup.
“I also love going for a nature walk, it’s very therapeutic. We spend so much time on worldly possessions that are going to leave us, we forget that we are so powerful and it’s actually ourselves and our wellbeing that we have to prioritise.”
What’s your biggest regret? And what did you learn from it?
“I think I’ve made mistakes, but not regrets, in regards to allowing the wrong people in at times, because you never know what someone’s intentions are. But I’ve learnt from that and I now have a very strong core team and know that’s what I need in life. As long as you’ve got people who will push you to be your best, that’s all you need.”
If you had one piece of advice for other women, what would it be?
“Love yourself, come on! Just love yourself! It’s the most beautifully liberating thing that you can do, but it’s also the hardest thing you can do, especially if someone has lived with self-hate for years.
“But it’s through meditating or reciting positive affirmations that you can come out of it. It doesn’t happen instantly. It took me years and years and years and I’m still on that journey of self-love, but once you do find it, the liberation that you feel is absolutely amazing.”
What’s the one thing you would change or do in 2017 to push women forward?
“I think women need to stop fighting women. But not just fighting each other, fighting ourselves. I honestly think self-love is so powerful that it could stop war. If we were to embed that within ourselves and help other people to love themselves as well, this whole world could change. I truly believe that.”
Harnaam Kaur spoke to HuffPost UK at the Treasures Within #LoveThySelf event, hosted at Lush UK.
Fierce is a regular feature on HuffPost UK, asking trailblazing women what drives them. We’ll be speaking to a range of women including those who’ve found success in male-dominated industries, created a service to help other women and those using their position to empower others.