A woman has told how after two decades of shaving to hide her beard, she has finally learnt to embrace it - and even styles it with ribbons.
Since she was just 14, Little Bear Schwarz - who legally changed her name from Renee - has been shaving, waxing and undergoing laser treatment to get rid of her unwanted fuzz, reports the Daily Mail.
For years, Little Bear, 33, from Seattle, would get up early to shave before her partners woke up, ensuring they wouldn't see her stubble.
Then two years ago she finally learnt to embrace her facial hair after winning a beard competition.
Since then, Little Bear has had people stare at her and even question whether she's a woman. But despite the cruel comments, she refuses to go back to her old life of daily shaving.
"I've had a taste of being myself and I can't go back to how I was," she said.
"I'm proud of my beard and work hard to keep it soft. I put ribbons in it and make it in to spikes or shape it to look like tentacles."
Little Bear was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was 31 years old. She'd suffered with excessive hair growth - a major symptom of the condition - for 17 years prior.
However, as doctors couldn't find any cysts when they ran ultrasound scans, the diagnosis wasn't immediately obvious. Then, at 14, she started growing hair on her upper lip, chin and chest.
"I began shaving on a regular basis," she said. "Keeping it wasn't an option. I would shave in the shower as I didn't want to see myself doing it.
"I was very secretive about it - women shouldn't have facial hair."
Little Bear told how she would end up with a shaving rash, which she'd cover with make-up.
She considered the option of laser treatment or waxing - but lasers were too expensive, and she didn't want to leave her hair to grow out until it was long enough to wax.
Therefore, she always went back to shaving, even waking up early if she was staying at a boyfriend's house to rid herself of stubble before he saw.
"I did a lot of dating," she said. "I played a game of, 'Let's make sure they never see my stubble.'"
In September 2013, Miss Schwarz met her now-ex boyfriend via a Facebook page about open relationships, and he accepted her for who she was, facial hair and all.
After six months, she moved 3,000 miles from Florida to Seattle to live with him, and felt like she was in a place - mentally and physically - where she could start growing her beard.
She said: "In Seattle, I was working from home, so didn't need to shave for work. I felt like I was safe to try growing my hair.
"Seattle seemed more progressive and welcoming than Florida too. My ex accepted me. I even joked with him that he couldn't grow a good beard."
At first, Little Bear feared she'd made a terrible mistake by ditching the razor, terrified of being harassed for having a beard.
She'd seen a TV show called Whisker Wars a couple of years earlier about people competing to grow the longest beard.
And after researching it further, she learned of a local competition for bearded ladies called Whiskerinas.
However, what she didn't realise was that the competition was actually for false beards crafted from things like wool as opposed to actual hair, reports the Daily Mail.
"I didn't realise the competition was actually for crafty beards," she said. "Everyone else had made papier mache and knitted beards.
"I turned up and thought I'd have the worst beard there, but I was an instant hit. When I won, I felt like it was a sign I should carry on."
Little Bear quickly realised she could make a career out of having a beard.
She continued: "At the competition I met the Wreckless Freeks, who are a circus sideshow troupe. They realised I had a real beard and asked, 'Do you want to join our sideshow?'
"I realised I could make having a beard a career."
With no circus experience, Little Bear spent six months learning the show. Having enjoyed singing at school, she decided to incorporate opera and burlesque in to her act.
Now, she has been performing with the Wreckless Freeks for two years.
She said: "At the start friends and family feared my involvement would be degrading, or I'd be a spectacle, but I'm happy to show myself off.
"People are accepting and like what we do."
She has also since split with the boyfriend who encouraged her to stop shaving.
Little Bear told how some people seem genuinely bewildered by her appearance, even questioning her gender or trying to take sneaky photographs of her.
"I've had comments like, 'You should shave that' and I've seen people take photos of me," she said.
"One day at the supermarket a guy looked at me confused and I said to him, 'Can I help you?" and he was embarrassed.
"At first it hurt, but I just smile at them now or stare back.
"There would be more repercussions if I did shave, now that I'm a mouthpiece for PCOS and women with beards. I'm proud of who I am."