Admiration for the “Bearded Lady”

I was reading about the history of the American Circus…which quite frankly creeps me out, but I do find myself drawn like a tourist to the “stage acts” AKA “freak shows’. I’m not going to delve into the horrible ethics related to this attraction, but rather express my sympathy and admiration for the bearded lady, and maybe her friend the fat lady.

In my “imagination”, I rationalize that these women were mothers and spent most of their married lives at home taking care of children. They found themselves their 30-40’s needing to go to work during tough economic times, especially for a bearded lady.  The poor ladies’ suffered from hormonal imbalances’ or perhaps para-menopause symptoms, ergo “beard” and “fat”.  Being creative and mothers of invention, they used what they had, and found steady employment in the entertainment industry.  Yes, they were also victims, put on display for their unfortunate situations and were scandalized for the social norm that “women should not have beards” but you have to appreciate the creative use of misfortune to make a buck.

I can’t imagine that today a women could really benefit from having a beard, unless it was for a electrolysis or hair removal info-commercial.. Maybe you can think of a benefit?  The point of the “bearded lady” is to creatively use of what God hands you, even if it is really quite unfortunate. If you investigate your weaknesses or perhaps a misfortune you view as a  hindrance, can you imagine celebrating that inequity and uniqueness?

Now mind you, this little mind-trip and story about bearded ladies is based on two famous bearded ladies; Barnum’s Josephine Clofullia and Ringling Bros.’ Jane Barnell. The first, Josephine Clofullia, Swiss born was married and had two children. Her son also had hirsute (hairy condition) and performed with his mother in the circus.  The second lady, Jane Barnell from Germany, used the stage name “Lady Olga” and was married four times. She started in the business as a pre-teen with her father as her agent, and was featured in  several movies.. We’d call that a child-actor.


Both these ladies were handed a bad deal and probably had other medical conditions, but they didn’t give up and hide from society, they instead found love and made a living by nontraditional methods.

Imagine on a lesser scale if you picked your greatest weakness and somehow made a living out of it…what would it be?  I have a wonderful friend who had trouble having children, so she studied and became a doctor who has helped many other women have children. She took a unfortunate situation and has a brag board in her office of all the babies she has helped bring into the world.  She is a inspiration for her strength and generosity.

So that being said, I wanted to mention a famous fat lady,  “Dolly Dimples”  whose real name was Celesta Herrmann, who reached her her top weight of 558 lbs in her 40’s!! Hum, metabolism issue? Of course her weight doesn’t really seem impressive in today’s world, as we watch “American’s Biggest Loser”…but what is impressive is she went on a health kick after a heart attack and lost 440 lbs. She was 112 pounds for the rest of her life (lived to be 81 years old). She was the original “biggest loser”, and is the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest weight loss in a period of time. Her secret…stop eating 10,000 calories a day and only eat baby food. She went on to became the first diet advocate, wrote a best selling book called ‘Diet or Die’ and ran a small art gallery in New York with her husband.  What an amazing life story?

So, what will you do with all this information? Probably nothing? or the next time you think “I can’t” or sit pondering on your limitations..instead celebrate them like a bearded lady… use them to your advantage, create an amazing experience or life….maybe even turn a buck.

Food for thought?



Andrea Leppert
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