(Image of Burke Kenny from Steve Bloom - AP - All Rights Reserved)
Kenny is famous for his amazingly full and curly brunette beard with lots of auburn undertones. The curly beard contrasts sharply with his straight black hair on his head.
Burke Kenny said it's not unusual to notice people staring at his chest. "I have to say, 'I'm up here," ' he said, pointing to his face. "Just like a girl."
Kenny won the same title four years ago in England, when he became the youngest international facial-hair champion. As they were preparing for the world competition, the contestants were followed by film crews for the reality show "Whisker Wars," which premiers at 11 p.m. Aug. 5 on IFC.
The international competition featured about 20 categories. The Americans brought home six gold medals, and four of those were grown by men from Washington state, Kenny said.
Besides Kenny, they were Bruce Roe of Bremerton, who won for Hungarian mustache; Craig "Rooty" Lundvall of the Everett area, who won for full beard natural; and Keith "Ghandi Jones" Haubrich of Seattle, who won the freestyle mustache category.
Kenny grew up in Olympia and began shaving at age 13. He experimented with facial hair in high school, although nothing extreme. He began growing a mustache at 19 and a beard about a year later, while attending The Evergreen State College. "My dad is definitely my No. 1 inspiration," Kenny said. "He's had a mustache for 30 years."
Full beards, especially long ones, get a bad rap, so Kenny said he's trying to use his to promote understanding and acceptance for people who are gifted with fruitful facial follicles. "I encourage men to grow quality facial hair, if they can," Kenny said. "And wear it humbly."
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