MONTREAL — Esther “Queen Esie” Calixte-Bea went from a shy girl, afraid that others would notice that she has chest hair, to an inspirational cover girl on a major U.K. magazine.
The model and artist from Montreal’s South Shore is one of the 10 cover girls on the Glamour U.K. Self-Love issue that came out in January where she’s photographed in a blue jumpsuit cut to accentuate her prominent chest and leg hair.
“I’m really happy and excited and I don’t know what to say here,” the Longueuil native of Haitian and Ivorian descent told CTV News.
“The little girl me is really surprised,” she said.
Glamour contacted Calixte-Bea (who has modeled for the magazine in the past) to be a cover girl after noticing her Lavender project, which she launched in the summer of 2019.
The self-photography Lavender Project is a series of self-shot photographs of the artist in a dress she designed that highlights her body hair.
Her journey to embracing and photographing herself in such a way began in elementary school.
She remembers first seeing chest hair when she was 11 and she felt she had to remove it for her elementary school graduation.
“I realized I was different from other people because I was very, very hairy compared to other girls,” she said. “I was struggling with that. In high school, I was always hiding it, even in college and university.”
Through prayer and self-work, she realized she had two choices to ward off the depression that was growing in her.
“I either accept myself as I am and just own it or I just stay in that dark place,” she said.
As an artist, she found the ideal way to express herself. She made a dress, posed and shot herself then posted the photos on her Instagram page.
“When I actually posted them, I was super, super afraid,” she said. “I didn’t know how people would react because it’s not something we’re used to seeing.”
Here I am on the cover of GLAMOUR UK 💗 Thank you @GlamourMagUK
.#hairybeauty #selfempowerment #bodyhairdontcare #chesthair #selflove #bodyhairmovement #glamour #diversitymatters #hairygirls #femalebodyhair #hairywomen #pithair #leghair #unshaved #bodyhair #chesthair https://t.co/ikdqUkYWL9
— Queen Esther 🌿 (@queen_esie) January 25, 2021
Made this look and finally posting it 🌞
Also me pointing to Yehovah 💫💛
.#blackartists #feminineenergy #selfempowerment #feministart #bodyhairdontcare #blackqueen #chesthair #afrofuturism #bodyhairmovement #januhairy #hairygirl #hairygirls #femalebodyhair pic.twitter.com/34aDPIJynJ
— Queen Esther 🌿 (@queen_esie) February 22, 2021
Later on, women around the world began messaging her.
“Telling me, ‘oh my gosh. I thought I was all alone. I have chest hair as well,'” she said. “I’ve gotten hundreds of messages and we all think we’re alone.”
She erased all former pictures that did not show her body hair, and, in May 2020, she stopped shaving, as her body reacted negatively when she removed hair.
“Ever since then I haven’t removed any hair on my body,” said Calixte-Bea. “I really felt it was important to question myself because as women we’re taught it’s not normal to have body hair.”
She said the Lavender Project liberated her, and she hopes to inspire others struggling with similar issues.
“Now, it’s bigger than me and I’m inspiring people from all around the world and I can’t go back now,” she said.
All her paintings now feature women with body hair.
“What’s really important for me is to show that with body hair you can still be beautiful and you can make it look beautiful,” she said.