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“Whisker Wars”: Meet Myk O’Connor

“Whisker Wars”: Meet Myk O’Connor (photo)

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“Whisker War’s” Myk O’Connor, a Gotham City Beard Alliance member, claims he never thought bearding would change his life but it has. He met his girlfriend fiancee and beard coach, Karolina, at a competition in Alaska, fell in love with both the sport and her and moved across the country to pursue both. While a loyal member of Beard Team USA, Myk feels strongly about beard competitions “doing good,” raising money for charity and working to alleviate some of the misconceptions about bearded men. He sat down to chat with us for a few minutes about all things beard:

How long have you been in Brooklyn?

I’ve been here for two years.

How did you end up in the world of competitive facial hair growing?
Two and a half years ago I was in San Francisco and a friend of mine with a handlebar moustache said, “Dude you have a really good beard you should grow it out again.” Then I heard about Beard Team USA and looked it up and saw that the World Championship competition in Alaska was coming up. I wasn’t planning on competing but did.

What category of bearding do you compete in?

Well, at the World Championship in 2009, I competed in the Garibaldi. The beard length can’t exceed a certain length of 8 or 9 inches from your chin or your bottom lip, I can’t remember. It’s a more rounded beard. It’s a matter of how you brush it.
I was just glad I wasn’t first up. I had no idea what I was doing. I thought maybe I had a chance in the Garibaldi because it wasn’t a super competitive category. You know, I was just there to have fun and I ended up getting 4th place. Basically, I lost. But I liked competing. Then I won Best Beard at the Coney Island Beard and Mustache Competition in September of 2009.

Now you compete in full natural?

Yeah, that’s the big one. Well, that and freestyle. If you go to the events you see these guys really standing out. They are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. They are the guys with the big beards.

Your girlfriend, Karolina, is your beard coach. What does a beard coach do exactly?

I don’t think she even knows what she does. She just makes sure I look good. We were at Nationals and she was standing in back with a utility belt with brushes and combs and hairspray and mirrors and everyone wanted one last look before they hit the stage. So she was letting everyone look and get ready to compete. It’s a way for her to feel connected to what I’m doing. She originally came to take pictures and now she’s everyone’s beard coach. She has a certain celebrity status now. Everyone knows who she is.

What’s your daily beard care routine? Do you something special before competition?

When I wake up I have to shower. My beard is just a mess. It looks like a car wreck. It’s all twisted up. You can shampoo it — and I do — but it’s a different type of hair. You just don’t want to use the same harsh chemicals. They need specific products. I like Bluebeard’s Beard Wash and this thing called a Beard Save or just Johnson’s baby shampoo. When you wash and condition your beard hair, it kinds of splits in the middle more than the hair on your head does. I also have a bunch of different brushes that I use for shaping, smoothing. I have boar’s hair bristle brush that I like. And I use Jojoba oil. It is really good to moisturize underneath.

How is the Gotham City Beard Alliance? Do you have archrivals?

My friend Chris started the Gotham City Beard Alliance and started making it an active club. When I went to last year’s beard and mustache competition I was able to get more members and started letting them know about competing. Everyone knew who Jack Passion was and everyone aspires to de-throne Jack Passion. We have some inner club rivalries but nothing major. But as far as other rivalries everyone was super excited to compete in the NYC competition last year. The goal for our club is to have super close friendships and work within the community. My biggest thing is breaking down stereotypes and being active in our community and lending a hand and recruiting more people and making a name for ourselves. I was really inspired by the Austin Facial Hair Club. I really wanted to be more like them.

How often does your club meet?

Well when we are getting ready for a big competition or a party, we’re constantly having to meet. But, it’s hard to get that many people together. But at events and stuff, that’s when everyone really wants to come out.

How many people are in the club?

Active members? I’d say 30 or 40. We have some who are farther out from the city, so they don’t come to meetings but they sponsor us and come to events. It’s a pretty different vibe from Beard Team USA.

This sounds glib, but do women ever compete?

Yeah. It depends on the competition. At Coney Island women compete. And they have beards, like, big beards. We try to include women, because otherwise it’s a big sausage fest. So we have competitions with categories like best fake beard. In Detroit Karolina won first place in fake beard, but I didn’t even place in my category, so I was kind of mad that I got shown up by her. Not really. But kind of.

Are there beard competition groupies?

Yeah, yeah there definitely are. The Whiskerinas are taking a more active approach to the competition. They aren’t groupies, exactly. Karolina does some stuff with them. I don’t mind if Karolina does it, I’ll support her in whatever, but I feel like I’m watching old videos of Van Halen with these women just losing their shit over men with beards. It’s kind of strange.

How long have you had a beard?

I’ve always had some sort of facial hair.

Since high school?

Maybe. Pretty much since I could first grow it. But this one I’ve had for two and a half years. In Jan ’09, I was like fuck it I’m doing it. That’s when I started competing. My beard grows really quickly, too.

Do you ever feel like shaving?

I think anyone who has had facial hair this long feels like shaving sometimes. I am so tired of walking down the street and having people ask me questions about it or gawk or if I’m in a bad mood and someone says something negative and I’ll come back negative and just think, “Shave it and never deal with this again.” But, no, I don’t want to shave it. I want to see how long I can get it. I want to see what I can do with it. I don’t want to cut it until I have to. Even then it wouldn’t all be gone. I’d still have something. Now the bearding world has really taken off, it’s kind of a trademark.

Do your parents understand what you do?

I don’t think my parents have ever understood what I’ve done. I told my mom about the competition in 2009 and she was like, okay, I’ll check it out. She was more excited for me to go to Alaska. But when I packed up from SF and said I was doing this stuff and moving to New York, they were supportive. They ask about the competitions and how I do. And I get to see the world. That makes my mom happy.

Who do you see as your biggest competition in the U.S.? And the world?

The judges. I have certainly been to competitions where I should have won or at least placed and walked out of there just completely dumfounded. I mean, you go to have a good time, but it’s still a competition and I’ve walked out of there sometimes and been like, “What happened?” I mean, yeah sure Jack Passion is someone to consider. I’ve only competed against him twice in the past year, so I don’t necessarily consider him my biggest competition. It’s really more about the judges and how can I make myself stand out.

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“Whisker Wars” airs on IFC on Fridays at 11 p.m. ET

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