- Publish Date
- Monday, 2 July 2018, 12:00PM
A woman who has grown a full beard after years of feeling ashamed of her facial hair has been praised for her bravery.
Nova Galaxia, 26, from Virginia, who has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes excess hair, appeared via live video link on ITV's This Morning from the US, the Daily Mail reports.
She explained how after a decade of shaving her face, she was inspired to finally stop and wear her beard with pride - winning praise from viewers.
Citing British model and activist Harnaam Kaur, 27, as her inspiration to stop shaving, Nova also said her partner, model Ash Byrd, 25, had also helped her to find confidence in herself.
Viewers watching Nova's interview took to social media to applaud her openness about living with PCOS.
"This lady's beard really is magnificent! She looks super cool (and also like an absolute badass). I can't grow a beard so am a bit jealous," said one man.
Another viewer said: "I'd embrace it too if my beard looked that good. Yes, girl!"
"Woman with a full beard and hairy chest on This Morning. Take my hat off to the lass and if my beard looked that good I'd flaunt it too. You go girl!" cheered one woman.
"PCOS is such an overlooked condition, mine is nowhere near as bad as this lady's, but you do you," added one fellow sufferer.
Others were not as kind about Nova's appearance: "Woman who want to wear the trousers is fine by me, but wearing a beard!? Hell no!!"
"That was a 'let's look at a woman with a beard' segment from This Morning, dressed up as some faux 'overcoming adversity' message," said one unimpressed viewer.
During the interview with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on Tuesday, Nova recalled the moment she began to embrace her look: "I remember the first time I went out when I stopped shaving it was just a grocery trip. I caught myself being obnoxiously self-conscious about it.
"It took a while for me to get to the point where I wasn't hiding. It took a couple of weeks. And then it got normal over time."
Nova explained that at 11-years-old her periods started, but then suddenly stopped a year later and never resumed - which has been attributed to taking birth control pills to regulate her hormones for the PCOS as a teenager.
She began developing noticeable facial hair, which she shaved and was diagnosed with PCOS, at 15 - and kept her condition a secret.
Because of her condition, where hormonal imbalances cause a woman to develop cysts on her ovaries and grow excess facial hair, Nova suffered years of bullying about her beard.
"A boy in my class at high school pointed at my face and said I had a better beard than he probably ever would,' Nova recalled in a previous interview.
"By this stage, I was shaving every single day before school. It was getting really thick and I would have a panic if I ever forgot my razor at sleepovers.
"I'd get up early and shave, pretending I was desperate for a shower, but really I couldn't stand to let myself be seen with a beard.
"I confided in my long-term girlfriend at the time, but apart from that, very few people knew. It was my dark secret, because of the pressures from society on women to shave all their hair off and conform.
"I was worried people would think I was a freak if I let my hair grow out."
How Nova's partner encouraged her
But Nova's life changed after finding the courage to ask Ash, who does not identify as male or female, out on a date in 2012.
Ash Byrd, 25, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, instantly accepted a date with Nova, who made her move after seeing the model in a fashion show.
A couple for six years, Ash said of video transcriber Nova: "I love her beard. It's a part of us as a couple now.
"Yes people do stop and stare at us, watch us walk down the street and ask Nova random questions to determine her gender, but she's never been happier and that makes me proud.
"I adore her, beard and all."
Nova said: "I saw Ash on the runway and I thought 'how cute'. We got talking and I realised this gorgeous model and me had a lot in common.
"I asked Ash out, we went on a date and were living together three months later."
Within weeks of dating, Nova shared her secret, with partner Ash responding: "I'll love you no matter what."
When they first met, Nova was shaving her face, back, chest and legs.
She continued: "It was becoming too much. I started speaking more about my condition and telling friends that I shaved my face.
"That's when I realised I wasn't alone and everyone loved me for me, not for the way I looked."
A major turning point came last year when British woman Harnaam Kaur, 24, who also has PCOS, hit the headlines after bravely growing out her beard and talking about the condition - inspiring Nova to follow suit.
So, on October 31, 2017, backed by Ash, she threw her razor away, embracing her facial hair – and has never looked back.
"It was scary at the start, but now I love my beard. I shampoo and condition it every day and always make sure it's been beautifully brushed to keep it looking its best," she said.
"People don't talk about PCOS, even though it's really common and I want more women to realise they are not alone."
Despite some negative reactions from strangers, Nova has received a lot of positive comments about her beard - not least from Ash, who said it looked "cute".
"People will come up to me and ask really random questions, just so they can hear me speak and see if my voice helps them to determine my gender," she said.
'I've received some cruel comments from strangers and trolls online.
"People have accused me of pretending to be woman, or they think I'm transgender, but I don't care. It's not an insult to be trans, I'm just not - I'm a gay woman.
"Anyway, with my hipster beard, I feel happier now than I have ever been. I am with someone I love, who supports my decision and loves me for me and my beard.
"I have no idea when I am going to stop growing it. It's a part of me now, and I love it."
This article was first published on Daily Mail and is republished here with permission.