Journalists have a warped sense of humour, there’s no denying that. It’s also another quality that me and the Northerner share. Hacks very often see and experience things that a lot of the general public don’t and maybe that’s our way of processing the absurd; scary and downright shocking. Sometimes if I’ve done a particularly harrowing interview I do need to off load to others, which is probably why so many journalists spend their time drinking, it helps us unwind and share stories – I realise it’s an unorthodox way of counselling – but it’s therapy that works nonetheless.
This next story is something that I could see featuring in a television series (on a particular channel that shall remain nameless) that would have certain editors rubbing their hands with glee but not without a serious dose of Schadenfreude.
Supatra Sasuphan is an 11-year-old Thai girl, and if you haven’t heard of her now, I guarantee you soon will. This poor little girl, has for the best part of her life, been bullied with name calling. “So what? “, you might say. Well while most children out grow their nicknames, it’s doubtful she ever will.
She’s been dubbed “Monkey Girl” because of a rare hair condition. All humans are primates, but in her case, her body hair is one characteristic she shares with our closest kin.
Spiteful taunts have left this poor child in tears for a good number of years, but what’s remarkable is children are so very easily pleased. Supatra has officially been recognised as the World’s Hairiest Girl, and has ‘become’ a new world record, which she claims has boosted her confidence.
“I’m very happy to be in the Guinness World Records! A lot of people have to do a lot to get in,” she said. “All I did was answer a few questions and then they gave it to me.”
Her new-found fame has helped her to become one of the most popular girls at school – there’s a bloody surprise! You have no idea how much harumphing I’m doing.
Supatra has the rare Ambras syndrome, or Congenital Hypertrichosis – meaning she has excessive hair covering her face and parts of her body. There are fewer than 40 cases documented worldwide of people with this genetic condition. It was first described in Austria in 1648.
The condition is caused by a defected chromosome. When she was born she had to have two operations to help her to breathe. Her family has attempted to remove the hair in the past with lasers but the treatment proved unsuccessful and it just kept growing back.
During the homini evolution our ancestors lost their body hair, why this happened has spawned many theories, none of which has been proven. Hypertrichosis is considered an atavism — or an evolutionary throwback. An atavism is a trait that reappears which had once disappeared generations back. There are so few cases of this condition that it indicates there has been a strong positive selection to keep us hairless. There have been some cases where people with this condition have had spontaneous loss of body hair.
I do hope Supatra continues to embrace her new-found confidence and takes this with her into adulthood. Here’s her intriguing story on film on The Sun’s website.