Unrealistic beauty expectations are nothing new: Julia Pastrana was known in life as the “world’s ugliest woman,” and her husband made money from this by taking her around to circuses and theaters as a curiosity. He even bought advertising in the New York Times calling his spouse a “link between mankind and the ourang-outang.” After Julia Pastrana’s death in 1860, he carted her corpse around the world for years, so people could see why he called the “bear woman.” Her remains were eventually abandoned in Norway.
The story of her sad life and strange appearance—she was apparently born with the condition called hypertrichosis—is making the news again because what’s left of her has been re-buried in Mexico, where she was born in 1834. Yesterday, her long-abandoned remains were re-interred outside of Sinaloa, her birthplace. Why now? Because New York artist Laura Anderson Barbata began a campaign to return Pastrana to her native land. How is this not a biopic? Who will play Julia Pastrana?