When 29-year-old model and fitness blogger Tracy Kiss needed surgery to ease vaginal discomfort, she decided to turn pain into beauty in the most literal sense. Using excess tissue removed by her doctor, Kiss created a wearable necklace from her labia. Yes, that labia.
“I have always found wearing underwear, jeans, cycling, and sitting on hard surfaces very uncomfortable on a daily basis and didn’t actually realize it was because my genitals were different to what is normal — if there is such a thing,” Kiss, who is based in London, told Teen Vogue. After the pain became severe, she decided to talk to her doctor about it. Kiss learned that a cyst had formed on labia minora due to excess labia tissue.
Basically, her labia minora was longer than her labia majora, causing irritation, pain, and ultimately a cyst. Kiss’ doctor told her that she would “forever be at risk of cysts occurring” and would be unable to prevent them, unless she had a surgery to remove the excess tissue. She decided to have the surgery after a second cyst within a month left her in “unbearable” pain. During her labiaplasty, which she was awake for, she asked her surgeon if she could keep the labia, “as a trophy of finally being pain-free.”
The surgery was life-changing, Kiss told Teen Vogue, saying that she would have done something about the pain sooner had she realized it wasn’t normal. “I feel gutted that I went 29 years without knowing there was anything wrong with me,” Kiss said. “If I'd been told during sex education at school, or given advice by a midwife during my pregnancy, then I'd have made the decision a lot sooner to have treatment.”
After about a year of leaving the tissue trophies of her labiaplasty in a jar filled with surgical fluid sitting atop her dresser, she wanted to find another to preserve them. So, she decided to make a decorative memento of her chronic pain, a tangible display of triumph to commemorate what she’d overcome. Kiss created a glittery labia pendant in resin, to which she attached to a necklace string. You can watch a video showing the process on Kiss’ YouTube channel.
Knowing whether your vagina is “normal” is complicated, in part because it’s often discussed cosmetically versus medically. According to LabiaLibrary.org, about half of people with vaginas have a labia minora that is longer than their labia majora, like in Kiss’ case. And like length, color and symmetry of the labia can vary from vagina to vagina. Essentially, every vagina is different. Wondering whether yours is normal should be a question of vaginal health versus whether it’s aesthetically pleasing.
Kiss wants people to know that vaginal discomfort and pain, like the kind she experienced first hand, is not normal. She hopes sharing her story will encourage other people to talk to their doctor sooner rather than later. “The only way we can break down taboos and open communication about our health...is to talk about it,” she told Teen Vogue. Kiss hopes “it will inspire others to know their bodies better and seek help now that they know it’s available,” adding, “you don’t have to live in pain.”
She recognizes the inherent shock value in making a necklace to be displayed publically out of your literal private parts. However, she said, “Once the shock factor is out of the way, it's pretty empowering and uplifting.” That definitely seems to be the came among women who have seen Kiss’ necklace or heard her story and felt inspired to speak up. “I've had so many young women contact me saying they're living with the same pain I'd always faced and how it's a relief to know there is treatment available,” she said.
While perhaps shocking at face value, Kiss says her necklace doesn’t get much attention in public. “Nobody recognized my necklace contains labia because it's not something you would ever expect to see,” she said. Regardless, wearing it proudly is something Kiss sees “as a reminder to never suffer in silence.” Thanks to Kiss’ story, there are likely women out there who no longer will.