Shyja, 35, from Kerala, is unusually shattering gender norms! She proudly wears a beautiful moustache. While facial hair in a woman is typically considered unattractive, Shyja’s moustache is her most appealing feature. “I adore my moustache,” Shyja says.
Shyja, who goes by one name, maintains she is indifferent to the questions that people who see her photographs or contact her in person routinely ask her. She has received both accolades and mocking.
The woman from Kerala’s Kannur district had body hair and wisps of facial hair on her top lip, as do many South Asian ladies. Natural body and facial hair are very common among South Asian women, and they are typically told that it should be removed and touched up regularly.
Shyja, on the other hand, never felt the need to wax the hair on her upper lip, even though she continued to thread and tweeze her brows. She said that when 5 years ago her upper lip hair started to thicken, she embraced it as a part of her identity rather than removing it like any other woman would choose to. She says, “I’ve never felt that I’m not beautiful because I have this or that it’s something I shouldn’t have.”
“I can’t imagine living without it now. When the Covid pandemic started, I disliked wearing a mask all the time because it covered my face,” Shyja said. “I’ve never felt that I’m not beautiful because I have this or that it’s something I shouldn’t have. I just do what I like. If I had two lives, maybe I’d live one for others.”
Shyja’s confidence may stem from years of dealing with health issues. For a decade, she had six operations. Doctors removed a tumour in her breast, and cysts in her ovary, and five years ago, she underwent hysterectomy surgery to remove her uterus.
“Each time I came out of surgery, I would hope that I never had to go back into an operation theatre again,” she said in an interview with BBC. Overcoming repeated health problems just reinforced Shyja’s conviction that she should spend her life in a way that brings her joy.
Growing up Shyja was a shy kid in a village that restricts women from going out of their home after dark. But once she got married and moved out with her husband to a neighbouring place. She started enjoying her freedom of being alone and venturing into local places. It changed her perspective as she added, “I learnt to do things on my own, it built my confidence.”
Her family and friends support her with her choice of flaunting her moustache. Her daughter has told her that she looks great in it. Harnaam Kaur, an activist is also a Guinness World Record holder for being the youngest woman with a full beard. She used to be bullied for her appearance for years. At 24, when she grew her beard, she flaunted it to the world and takes pride in it as she tries to break the societal beauty standards of women.