The New Girl: Rhyannon Styles On Beauty

ELLE's transgender columnist on manicures, make-up and what happens when she gets her legs waxed

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'I like you. You're a special woman,' whispered the manicurist as she applied a second layer of glittery gold shellac to my fingernails.

'You don't see people like you around here' she continued.

I spent the summer in Berlin, writing my memoirs, tucked away in the quiet suburban town of Tegel. I hadn't seen anyone else that I thought could be 'special' either.

I knew that she was referring to the fact that I'm transgender, although I don't think this makes me special.

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It embarrassed me that she'd mentioned it at all.

I immediately became conscious of my body. I looked at my hands and thought 'Are they too big?'. I became paranoid that my hands looked masculine.

I smiled politely, unsure of what to say next, so I said nothing.

This isn't the first time I've worried about the size of my hands or feet.

I'm conscious that I can't change them.

I'm conscious that other people look at them to identify your gender.

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I know from experience having heard comments in the past: 'Is that a man or a woman?...look at the feet!'

This also isn't the first time people in the beauty industry have acknowledged my trans identity.

Getting my legs waxed is always a scary experience, sometimes for the waxer too.

I actually love getting it done, especially when the hot wax is spread all over my thighs.

Waxing is a necessity for me; hairy legs really don't compliment my look.

I try and maintain smooth legs all year round as the softness makes me feel sexy.

When I take my clothes off and I'm just wearing underwear, it's clear to the waxer that I'm transgender.

I've seen some waxers raise eyebrows, I've seen others jaws physically drop as they scan my body and try to piece it together.

Getting my legs waxed is always a scary experience, sometimes for the waxer too

I feel anxious, not knowing what the reaction will be.

I want to pull my top down and hide my pubic area, I shake my head when they ask 'Do you want your bikini line done today madam?'

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I prefer to do that myself in the intimacy of my bathroom where no-one can judge me.

I don't blame them.

Rhyannon Styles when she was beginning her transition

It's a shock when somebody who you presumed was female throws a different perspective of gender identity in your face.

At the beginning of my transition I would slap on makeup like it was warpaint and head out the door, using any means necessary to make me look 'female'. Adding a pair of high heels and a pencil skirts did the trick, but I did get it wrong.

I'm no stranger to the beauty aisle. As a teenager, I'd spend Saturday afternoons in Superdrug shopping for temporary aubergine hair dye and black eyeliner.

A man once stopped me in the street and shouted 'Oi Coco, the circus is that way!'. I'd heavily applied makeup that day. My bright red lips and pale face, gave the impression I was a clown. Completely floored by his comments I carried on walking and tried to see his rudeness as a lesson, maybe less was more?

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I was battling against the old me. I wanted my reflection in the mirror to match how I felt about myself. I saw myself as a woman, I wanted everyone else to see that too.

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Two years into my transition I began taking feminising hormones. I began on a low dose, which was gradually increased.

Every morning I pop 8mg of oestrogen with my coffee. Taking oestrogen has massively relieved my anxiety over my gender presentation. The potential side effects of mood swings and weight gain cannot overweigh the positivity I feel inside myself.

I know I can't expect everyone to see me how I see myself. No matter how much I say or do, the message doesn't always come across. What's important is that I always stay true to what I believe.

I did find places that greeted me with open arms, over time I realised most of those fears were only in my head.

Every morning I pop 8mg of oestrogen with my coffee. Taking oestrogen has massively relieved my anxiety over my gender presentation

With time, life has become easier.

Nowadays I'm relaxed, owning and presenting a trans identity.

I don't worry about what the waxer might be thinking about me, it's really none of her business anyway.

I love having smooth legs, painted nails and threaded eyebrows, I was doing myself an injustice by avoiding the beauty salons.

I was too afraid of negative comments, mispronouncing of pronouns and rejection.

I love all these embellishments, but I discovered going through my transition that I needed to embrace the beauty which is on the inside.

Now I'll often leave the house wearing no makeup and flat shoes.

Combined with killer nails and smooth legs.


Yes, I am special. We all are!

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