They told her to shave it off. They told her it would ‘scare children’. “I couldn’t even leave the house because of the hate.” But she stood up, fought back and learnt how to love herself.
Recently body hair activism has reclaimed its well-deserved spotlight, with more activists taking to social media to normalise women’s body hair and inspire a new generation – we even saw influencer Esther Calixte-Bea on the digital cover of Glamour Magazine, boldly showing off her chest and leg hair. And it really is making a difference; according to new figures, more women between the ages of 18-24 are deciding to grow out their hair, with the number of women shaving their legs and armpits dropping by 7%.
Naturally, as a curvy feminist, I have been drawn to the body positive community, leading the majority of my curated social feeds to be filled with body positive content, but there was one particular TikTok that caught my attention; a girl with a monobrow addressing some pretty awful hate comments. Her response to them when went like this:
“Every day I get hate comments. The most are “shave it off”. Comments like ‘Do you really go outside like that?’ or ‘You’re gonna scare the children if you go out like that.’ A couple of weeks ago I was shopping, and I was petrified to even step out of my car to go to the shop because of a comment that someone had said to me. Bullying is not okay, and it will never be okay. I understand that a lot of people who hate on others are not happy with themselves but that is where you have to practice self-love. Being different is okay. Not fitting into this perfect world of beauty standards is okay. You are allowed to be who you want to be because without you being different, the world would be boring.”
That girl is 21-year-old, art student, Cydni Akbar. Growing up, Cydni had always embraced her body hair and proudly grew her monobrow, believing that if it grew naturally, it was supposed to be there. A brave choice for a young girl surrounded by media that slams any kind of genuine naturality in women. The struggle became clear when her fellow classmates would bully her because of her hair, branding her a “gorilla”, eventually leading her to shave it off.
Eleven years later, Cydni grew her monobrow out again and went on a long journey of self-love and self-acceptance. She decided to share that journey on TikTok and now has over 60K followers. We were fortunate enough to speak to Cydni and ask her about her self-love journey and body hair activism.
While talking to Cydni, her charisma and positivity glowed through the screen and I could instantly tell why people are so drawn to her. “When I hit 40K followers, I cried on live. I just find it unbelievable that people would want to follow me. I can’t even express it.”
Cydni started TikTok in February 2020 solely posting makeup tutorials. But that soon changed when lockdown hit. “As the first lockdown started, I began to focus on myself more and I was looking back at old photos of me with my monobrow, and decided that I’d start regrowing it, because I know I can always get rid of it.” She told me.
In September 2020, Cydni started to post her hair growth journey on TikTok, telling me: “For some reason, people really enjoyed watching me and my journey.” Since then, likes and follows have been flying in, leading Cydni to become somewhat of an influencer.
The path to self-love is never easy and it has always been “a bit of a process” for Cydni. “I’m quite a big girl so I’ve always practiced self-love, but social media can make it hard sometimes. I get sent a lot of hate, but I also get a huge amount of support, and that’s what I’ve had to focus on. It’s certainly been a journey and it has really helped me love myself.” Unfortunately for the haters, they have both increased her success and, in her words, “made me stronger” – Can we get a round of applause for that?
Often Cydni gets comments asking her why she keeps her monobrow. The one thing that people miss is that body hair is both healthy and natural; it is popular culture and the beauty standards within it that have led us to believe otherwise. So people may ask why she keeps her hair, but the question should be, why do we get rid of it?
Historically, hair trends have changed non-stop, often due to the male gaze within certain communities. Women didn’t actually start shaving their armpit hair until 1915, when Gillette made the first razor for women around the same time sleeveless dresses first came into fashion. It’s safe to assume that without this lucrative marketing scheme, we may have never started shaving in the first place. After all, the health benefits of not shaving far outweigh those from shaving. And as Cydni told me: “Why should I go through the effort of shaving for other people’s validation? With my body hair, I’m happy, healthy, and confident. And I won’t change that for anybody.”
Akbar’s newfound success has opened a lot of doors. From a soon-to-be art graduate and aspiring teacher to a TikTok sensation, what’s next for Cydni Akbar? “There a quite a few paths I could go down. I still want to be a teacher but I’ve also been approached by several agencies to model. All I want to do is help people.” Whether it’s teaching children or modeling her hair to inspire young girls, Cydni’s goal in life is to help others and make a difference.
Cydni’s journey of self-love and body acceptance is certainly admirable, so we asked her if she had any advice and she left us with this:
“Just be true to yourself. Do the things that you like to do and do the things that make you feel powerful. And don’t let anyone give you any other guidance on that. You are your own person you have your own route to go down and if something goes wrong you can put yourself back on the right path again. Because if you’re not happy with yourself then how could you love anything? And I think that is the one thing that I take from it and that is if I don’t love myself then I can’t give love to anyone else. And we need that to truly be happy.”