We are all the Bearded Lady

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I know I am so late to this party, but you guys, I watched The Greatest Showman and am fairly certain it actually changed my life. 

If you haven’t seen it, finish reading this post, and then immediately go watch it. We rented it on Prime, but I believe it comes out on DVD this week. And let me go ahead and say, you’re going to want to buy the soundtrack as well. 

I cried approximately 97 different times during this movie. (Not to sound dramatic or anything) 

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But there is one scene I will never get over.

I’m going to describe the scene, but if you haven’t seen the movie I don’t think it will take away from your experience or ruin any major moments in the plot. 

The movie is obviously about P.T. Barnum’s journey during the birth of show business. There’s one point about halfway through the movie where ole P.T. gets too caught up in chasing success and money and approval, and he makes some poor decisions concerning his circus friends. 

The circus friends, specifically the bad-A bearded lady, feel like P.T. is ashamed of what others will think of them. Before joining the circus, these performers spent their entire lives hiding who they truly were for fear that people would reject them because they were different. 

The bearded lady (played by the amazingly talented Keala Settle), in particular, has the most gorgeous singing voice, but she never wanted to share it because she was scared that once people saw her beard they would hate her for it. When P.T. tries to hide her from the rich, upper-class crowd he’s trying to impress, she has a moment where she decides she’s no longer going to let her beard keep her in the shadows.

In a beautiful flash of acceptance and confidence, the bearded lady leads the other circus performers in “This is Me,” which is the most moving part of the entire movie. And as I watched her storm through the crowd of pretty, perfect people proudly holding up her chin so that all could see her beard, I realized, I want to be that bearded lady.

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I want to be bold and brave and unashamed of the dark and ugly parts of me. We all have them. Whether it’s something that we’ve done or has happened to us in the past or something we struggle with every single day, we all have parts of our stories that we are terrified to share with the room full of seemingly superb, flawless people who appear to have it all together. We can’t let them see who we truly are because they just wouldn’t understand. They would see our “beard” and be filled with disgust – unable to look at us the same, because their imperfections are not quite as beastly as ours. 

The truth is that those pretty, perfect people have messy, secret parts to their story as well, but that’s actually irrelevant. The real reason we love watching the bearded lady walk through the crowd belting out "This is Me" is because we never get to find out how those people responded to her, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The cameras are not focused on the other people; they are focused on the bearded lady. We all are, because the magic of that moment is in her acceptance of herself.

When I think about my struggles and the ugly parts of my story, I often worry whether or not other people will accept them, when the real freedom comes in accepting them myself. In forgiving myself and granting myself permission to be imperfect in a broken and complicated and messy way. 

In that moment which I keep replaying in my head, the bearded lady accepts and loves herself, and that’s why that scene is so powerful. Not because other people embrace who she is, but because she embraces it herself. 

We all want to be ok with our flaws. We all have a desire to be fully known and deeply loved, and that has to start with us accepting our stories as they are, not as we want them to be. We all have parts we’d rather skip over, but those are the parts that make us who we are. We are all flawed. We are all broken. But we all have the ability to be open and honest and brave. To be human. To be known. And to be the bearded lady.

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