A “HAIRY woman” whose ex-boyfriend mocked her “moustache” has ditched the razor for good after years of spending £100 on hair removal.
Mum Brenna Pennly now proudly flaunts her 6cm long armpit hair on Instagram, after becoming obsessed with shaving at just 11.
The single mum-of-two, 31, ended up spending £98-a-month ($120) having her hair removed from six areas at her local beauty clinic.
But in 2017 Brenna, a psychology student, from Boise, Idaho, had an epiphany – and started sharing snaps of her unshaven armpits with her 24,000 followers.
Brenna, who now only removes the hair on her face, said: “I didn’t want to just be that girl who posted pictures of her armpit hair on Instagram. I wanted to find some meaning in what I was doing.
“So as my page grew, I started making my posts about body choice and about women having self-love. I want to encourage other women to embrace their bodies.
“Society tells women they should shave – just because they’re female. I say, ‘So what? Only shave if you want to.’
“Every woman has the right to have authority over their body and to make their own decisions. Gender should not come into it.”
Brenna, who has an eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter with her previous partner, but does not wish to name them, admits she has not always felt this confident about her body hair.
She said: “I was a hairy kid and I remember feeling very uncomfortable about it.
“You know what kids are like. A couple commented on how hairy I was – I had a hairy face, legs and arms – and I became instantly insecure about it.
“I used to go into school wearing long sleeved tops, so no one could see my arms.”
Society tells women they should shave – just because they’re female. I say, ‘So what? Only shave if you want to’
Aged just 11, Brenna, who was raised in a strict Mormon household, was given a razor by her mum – who knew how insecure she was.
She said: “I was very studious about shaving. I started shaving my arms and my legs every day.
“I didn’t just have hairy legs and arms, I had a hairy face and back too.
“But one day I thought, ‘Sod it, I’m going to own it.’ So, I’d go around telling people I had a hairy back, just to gauge their reaction.
“Or, if someone was down about themselves – maybe complaining if they were a bit tubby or short – I’d say something like, ‘Don’t worry I’ve got a hairy back’.”
Thankfully, growing up in a tight knit community, Brenna did not experience too much negativity about her hair as a teen.
“I did date one guy who told me, ‘You’ve got a moustache,’ in front of his mum, who quickly scolded him for it. But that was my only really negative experience,” she said.
Still, Brenna went to great lengths to remove her body hair, obsessively shaving every day and discovering waxing as she moved into her twenties.
“I was the classic woman,” she said. “I shaved daily and waxed, too. I was very much a part of the female tradition of keeping up my grooming.”
Then in 2015, aged 28, she discovered laser hair removal and her grooming rituals stepped up another gear.
She said: “I found this laser hair removal clinic near me that offered monthly membership packages for $60 (£50) where you could get three areas of hair removed every month.
“I actually bought a double membership, so for $120 (£98) I could get six areas of hair removed.
“I’d get the hair on my chest, stomach, back, legs, feet and face removed, and I’d get a Brazilian done too.
“I couldn’t get my arms lasered because I had tattoos.”
For the next two years, Brenna continued to make monthly visits to the laser clinic – even though she was not entirely satisfied with the results.
“The laser hair removal wasn’t effective for me,” she said. “I still had patches of hair on my legs. The only place it seemed to work was on my back.”
But as a mum of two young kids, she found it increasingly difficult to keep up her daily shaving routine and keep on top of her patchy leg hairs.
She said: My armpits were the worst bit. Every time I’d shave them, they’d come up in a rash, or if I put on a little bit of weight, the stubble would rub against me and it was actually quite painful.”
In October 2017, an incident with her daughter sparked an epiphany.
She said: “My daughter had started hating having her hair brushed and washed, but I still did it every day.
“But my son had short hair, so I’d just let him get on with it.
“One day, my daughter was really upset, and I thought, ‘Why am I putting her through this?’ Then I realised – it was because she’s a girl.
“I didn’t think that was right so I asked her, ‘Would you like your hair cut?’ and she said she would. So, we cut it into a pretty pixie cut and bought her some headbands.
“It made me think, ‘Why am I constantly shaving my armpits even though I hate doing it?’
“I realised it was simply because I was a woman and I felt like I had to. But I quickly realised that just because I was I woman it didn’t mean I had to shave my armpits at all.
“I didn’t want to be defined by gender anymore and I wanted to take back control of my body.”
Brenna, who more or less simultaneously turned her back on her Mormon religion,then vowed to stop shaving her armpits, although she continued to have the rest of her body lasered.
“When I saw the technician, they’d ask, ‘Would you like your armpits done too?’” she said.
“I’d tell her no because I thought it was cool and she’d just laugh. She thought I was being funny.”
A month later, in November 2017, Brenna posted the first picture of her armpit hair on social media.
She said: “I’d told a few people I’d been growing out my armpit hair and they told me it was gross.
“So one day, I was feeling sassy and a bit rebellious, I posted a picture of my armpit hair on Instagram.
“I just posted it to my normal everyday Instagram account – but suddenly, more and more people started following me.”
After posting pictures on a daily basis, her popularity grew ten-fold, prompting Brenna to devote an entire account to pictures of her armpit hair.
“I never knew so many people wanted to see pictures of armpits,” she laughed.
“After a while, I started getting thousands of followers – I couldn’t believe it.
“I got so much positive attention – although a lot of it was sexual.
“People would say things like, ‘Oh, your armpits are so sexy,’ or ask if I was hairy somewhere else.
“Of course, I got some negative comments, but that just comes to be expected with social media.
“I only ever get annoyed when people feel like they could objectify me.
“I don’t mind being sexy, but when people think I should answer questions about my own body that annoys me.”
I’d told a few people I’d been growing out my armpit hair and they told me it was gross
Determined not to just make her account about her armpits, Brenna now uses her platform to encourage other women to embrace their bodies.
“I really want to inspire women to love themselves no matter what and to be happy with who they are,” she said.
“There’s so much pressure on women nowadays to look or act a certain way and my page is all about ignoring the pressure and encouraging women to just have self-love.”
Armed with her newfound confidence, in November 2018, Brenna decided to go the whole way and stop shaving, lasering and waxing everywhere – besides her face.
She said: “The first few times I went out in public having not shaved anything I was embarrassed and scared.
“I was worried it would dampen my sex appeal. But it hasn’t – if anything it’s done the opposite.
“I only shave my face now – because I want to, not because I feel like I have too.”
While shaving her armpits does not suit her now, she also refuses to commit to staying hairy forever.
“I’d never say never to anything,” she said. But then, why would I shave my armpits?
“I’d never shave for someone else if they didn’t like it- I’d only do it for me.
“The way I see it, it’s my life, my body, my business and it should only be down to me.
“Women put too much pressure on themselves – but your worth isn’t defined by what society thinks, it is defined by who you want to be.”
We previously revealed why Stacey Solomon is our body hair hero.