Mustaches & Beards

6 Women Behind The Beards

November 04, 2014

Bearded ladies have been a popular sideshow attraction for many years. Join us as we visit 6 of the most notable bearded ladies which inspired Kathy Bates' character on American Horror Story Freak Show.

1. Helena Antonia (16th Century)

Helena Antonia was born in Liège, Belgium and was a court dwarf of Maria of Austria. Court dwarfs were basically property and traded or gifted to kings and queens. They were dressed fancily and placed next to their king or queen during public appearances. Supposedly their small size made kings appear much larger by comparison. Helena was favored by queens though.

2. Julia Pastrana (Born 1834)

Julia Pastrana was an indegenous woman from Mexico with hypertrichosis, a condition that makes you grow straight hair all over. She toured in North America and Europe billed as a "Bear Woman". A doctor by the name of Alexander B. Mott, M.D. certified that she was the result of a human who mated with an orangutan. Another doctor claimed that she was a "distinct species". And, probably most flattering, another stated she was "only a deformed Mexican Indian woman".

3. Annie Jones (Born 1860)

Annie Jones was born in Virginia and toured with P.T. Barnum (founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus). When she joined Barnum's exhibition she was only nine months old. By the time she was five she had a full mustache and sideburns. Her parents were paid $150 per week by Barnum.

4. Jane Barnell (1871- 1951)

Jane Barnell, aka Lady Olga, was a native of Wilmington, North Carolina. When she was four her mother sold her to the Great Orient Family Circus and Menageria. After a year of searching, her father found her when she was five. Later in life she toured with many circuses including Ringling Brothers and was the film 'Freaks' which left her unhappy with the portrayal of sideshow performers.

5. Josephine Clofullia (1827–1875)

Mrs. Clofullia was a swiss born bearded lady who toured with P.T. Barnum's "American Museum" in the late 1840's. In 1853 William Charr took her to court claiming she was actually a man. Doctor's examined her and verified that she was in fact a woman. Some say that this case was one of many publicity stunts that Barnum was known for.

6. Jennifer Miller (Born 1961)

Jennifer Miller is a modern day bearded lady who is a singer, entertainer, and a professor at Pratt institute in Brooklyn. She proudly sports a beard to this day and can be seen performing at Circus Amok in New York City.