a lesson on beauty from morgan mikenas
Beauty notes from the girl who went viral for refusing to shave.
Image via Instagram
Morgan Mikenas doesn’t shave her body hair. This shouldn’t really be a wildly controversial statement, given that half the population could go their entire life without taking a razor to the fuzz on their limbs and no one would bat an eyelid. But for some reason (institutionalised beauty standards instilled through years of systematic sexism), people still take offence at a few stray hairs on a woman’s calf or crotch. That’s why it’s apparently newsworthy when Miley doesn’t shave her pits, it’s why Petra Collins gets pissed at all the razor ads that don’t show hair at all, and it’s why a Youtube video titled Why I Don’t Shave by fitness vlogger Morgan Morgan Mikenas went viral in March. Fortunately, not all the viewers were people taking offence -- a lot took huge inspiration from Morgan’s middle finger to the patriarchy. “I feel like it's an act of submission to the male-dominated culture we live in,” Morgan told i-D earlier this year. “Shaving my legs makes me feel powerless. When you make decisions for others, specifically a decision that will make others see you a certain way, a way that culture has designed as "sexy and beautiful", you lose your power.” We caught up with Morgan to discuss her past, her future, and her present views on beauty -- whatever that word means.
“Growing up in a small town like Valparaiso, Indiana, everyone knew everyone and it was very cliquey. I always felt like the kid who was the outcast, but always tried to fit in by being something I wasn't. l was super depressed, so much so I sometimes would just lie in complete darkness in my room for hours. I dreaded school, worrying that I couldn't just be myself and that I wasn't good enough, only looking at the bad stuff. I had poor self-esteem, I never felt beautiful unless someone told me that I was. That's messed up.
As a kid I remember watching my mum get ready every morning for work. I would watch her put on her make-up and do her hair, and little Morgie would just stand there admiring her beauty. But deep down I was always confused about why she had to go through that rigorous routine every day. Eventually she showed me how to put on my own make-up, do my own hair and how to shave my legs (I used to come home from school crying because some girls made fun of me for having hairy legs). Once again, I didn't even know why I "had” to do these things, but I did them anyway because it's what everyone else did.
I first started wearing make-up properly when I was in middle school. My mum tried to get me to wear lip gloss before then, while I was in elementary school, but I hated that stuff and still do. I also wore way too much eyeliner, I looked like a raccoon. But I did it because the "popular" girls did it, and all the boys liked them, and I wanted to be like that too. I also never left the house without wearing lipstick. It made me feel sexy and super feminine.
Most of the time make-up made me feel "better" about myself, but it never taught me self-love; it never filled that hole inside myself. You can cover up your insecurities with make-up, but until you accept everything good and bad about yourself, you will always have unresolved issues. And that's something that took me a while to realise.
For my whole life I’ve followed the crowd in my search for love and acceptance -- that is until I met my wonderful boyfriend, Connor, who changed my life forever. He saw the real person that I was, despite my issues, and he nurtured that part of me to be confident and proud of who I am.
Now that I am older I don’t wear make-up and I don’t shave. My beauty regimen is basically coconut oil, coconut oil, and coconut oil. I stay away from fluoride and any product with it. I usually wash my hair 2-3 times a week, but I use all natural hair products. Occasionally I will put on a sweep of mascara, but that's it. When I do put on minimal mascara, I do feel like, ‘Wow I am beautiful,’ but that’s because I never see myself with it on. But even then, I’ve come to love and accept how I look with no make-up on.
Today my relationship with my body is so much better than it has ever been in the past. I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of me. My mind/ body/ spirit are what I want to find balance in. I crave creativity and self-expression; I feel the most beautiful and empowered when I am playing the piano, doing yoga, painting basically naked, being free from any expectation, singing, dancing, and pouring my soul into whatever it is that I am doing. I crave deep conversation with other humans about our existence here and try to work together towards a common goal. Sharing makes me feel sexy.
I work in a gym as a personal trainer. How that experience has affected by understanding of beauty can only be explained from stepping in my shoes: imagine you are a woman in the gym with hairy legs and armpits fully exposed in workout clothes. As you walk though the gym, you notice people pointing and whispering, laughing, giving you dirty looks, talking shit. It’s taught me alot about mindfulness. I have to constantly surround myself in a bubble of my own love and confidence in order to ignore what’s happening around me. It's taught me to turn people’s hate into love, because if a person is being hateful, they are the ones who need love the most. It’s also taught me that my outer appearance is not what defines me, it's all in what I do, what actions I take to better myself and the ways in which I assist others in bettering themselves too. Imagine if everyone just accepted every human for who they are, put all judgement aside, and genuinely loved them no matter what, because you know any human could be going through something similar to you, and by loving and accepting them, you make their existence a little easier.
My advice to kids moving forwards: you have so many beautiful qualities about you. You have purpose, your beauty can be found within your heart. You have to look for it. You have to create love for yourself. You have to stop being so hard on yourself, and look at all the wonderful things about you. Beauty, to me, is more than anything we could ever see with our eyes. It is something we have to feel, it is something we have to create within ourselves.”