Female body hair grows little by little, and nobody cares. Until one day, a colleague begins to wax. And another, and then you start to be more careful: you do not wear a skirt if you are not waxed, the hair begins to look like something “ugly” or even “disheveled”; as if it were more hygienic not to have hair on the legs – or on the pubis – than to have them. About the relationship of women with body hair is ‘Pelos’, a comic designed by Elena Diaz-Roncero and edited by the Soria City Council.
Díaz-Roncero also tells his own story in this illustrated book. “The hair came prematurely to me, at the age of five. At first I normalized it, but I was distressed when I saw how people reacted, for example, when I raised my arm in class and that classmates saw my armpit hair”, explains to elDiario.es.
The artist – who has worked with musicians, artists and some books – remembers how her childhood was, including a visit to the doctor. The hair was several years ahead of her and she had no other hormonal problems, but it did lead to personal discomfort. “Body hair, stretch marks, pimples … are only a problem when exposed to the public,” protests Elena Díaz-Roncero. “I did not read it as a problem at first, but then I experienced it as [el vello] it was something he had to hide. I had to spend it alone until well into adolescence, when the others began, “she confesses.
This “half comic, half artist’s book, half picture book” outlines the relationship of many women to their hair: from shame to pride to indifference. And it does so through doodles, flyers, transparencies, die-cuts and pop-ups. “It is a bit interactive and the editing is laborious,” acknowledges the designer. The format of the book is not the usual one and has four varieties of paper, which has made the edition more expensive.
The 21-year-old artist focuses her drawing on gestures, in pencil and without placing much emphasis on technique, but gives more priority to lines, curves, gestures and emotion. “I think the simplest drawings are the ones that convey the most, because it is easier to see oneself reflected in a little doll,” says Elena Díaz-Roncero, who is studying Graphic Design.
‘Pelos’ was born with a Final Degree Project that he presented for Graphic Design, at the Artediez School (Madrid). “They recommended that it be a topic that I was very passionate about and I remembered a topic that I had forgotten there: my relationship with hair,” says Elena Díaz-Roncero. From the first moment, he knew that he wanted the project to be more ambitious and he thought about its possible publication. The designer remembers that she thought she wanted her work to have an “impact” on people.
Once the work was delivered, he started looking for publishers, but came across many negatives: the comic dealt with a theme that might not be well received; the idea was from a new designer and the book, expensive. “A lot of people are bothered to talk about it, the issue raises a lot of blisters,” he acknowledges. Díaz-Roncero explains that the publishers he contacted supported the book’s theme, but that they had “a certain reluctance” in case it didn’t work, in case the reader didn’t like it. In addition, he contacted some workshops, which responded with a “small book.”
Meanwhile, he approached the City of Soria to test the waters and see if he could organize cultural activities in the Department of Equality when he had obtained a publishing house. The Consistory offered to publish the book, to his surprise, with a circulation of 500 books. The City Council will manage one part of the comics and the other, the cartoonist will have to place them. Elena Díaz-Roncero shows her satisfaction and gratitude to the municipal corporation because the edition is identical to the one she presented in her Final Degree Project. “I knew that to publish I was going to have to make many assignments … but in the end the edition is identical,” he stresses.
Elena Díaz-Roncero wants to put ‘Pelos’ in all the bookstores in Soria that she can, but also in Madrid or in other cities: “Dreaming is free, and I would like to be able to sell at Berkana or at Librería Mujeres”.