There is nothing stronger than the insatiable desire to ‘fit in’ when you are 13. As you get older, you no longer rely on your humour or your imagination to be liked as you did on the playground at school. Suddenly, your beauty becomes your currency, and being ginger, I always felt short-changed.
School is tough enough as it is, and kids can be mean. Period. Growing up, I had my fair share of ridicule at school, time goes on but the name-calling always sticks. I’ve always seen ‘ginger’ as a negative word, a word thrown at me with with disrespect. Being ginger was never something I felt I could be proud of.
I often laugh to myself as I recall my early teens and pledging to myself that “as soon as I’m old enough, I’m dying my hair black” – it was mainly said in jest, for I knew jet black hair wouldn’t suit me quite as much as my fiery ginger locks. But black hair doesn’t attract bullies; black hair blends in.
I’ve always struggled to explain what it feels like to be ostracised for my hair colour; it’s hard to explain to someone without ginger hair about the stigma attached to it. In 2014, a study by Kevin O’Regan at the University of Cork, found that 90% of redheads had faced some form of abuse because of their hair colour. Having always felt some form of discrimination and been ‘the odd one out’ in a group of friends, I knew that the only people that could relate to my experience of having ginger hair, funnily enough were other red heads.
Olivia, a 6-foot model and natural redhead, agreed with my empty promises about dying my hair. “I’d always say that I’d dye it, but I knew I never would” she continues, “if I had brown hair I don’t think I’d be getting anywhere in this industry. My hair makes me stand out.”
Me and Olivia met on a recent photoshoot and it was one of the first times in my life I could share stories about the trials and tribulations of being ginger with a fellow redhead. I felt such a sense of relief when she told me she also felt “awkward and out of place” because of her hair colour. We discussed about whether we wanted our kids to be ginger and laughed about how the people that used to bully us at school now praised us for our fiery locks. I agreed with her when she told me she thought that “ginger always looks better in a crowd,” and it was her unpretentious empathy that saw Olivia go from fellow redhead to a close friend of mine. “After all,” she says, “us gingers have to stick together.”