Growing up with red hair in the UK, I often felt like I'd drawn the short straw. Speckled with freckles and pale as a ghost, I was teased for being ginger.
There was no denying my hair colour. I tried on a few occasions, with lemon juice and far too much blue hair mascara. But if I ever stepped into sunlight, my multi-tonal red hair shone through, reflecting in every direction possible, blinding those who happened to glance in my direction. Which, as a painfully shy 13-year-old who just wanted to blend in, was a little mortifying.
Of course, when that happens nowadays, I love it. Getting noticed for my natural red hair, instead of blending in with the boring blondes and brunettes, is a fabulous feeling of empowerment and individuality. But back then, all I wanted was to look, sound, talk, smell, and do everything just like everyone else did. I hated this ginger mop on the top of my head.
It wasn't until I reached about 18 that I started thinking that life was much more exciting on the ginger side. The late teen years are when being different is suddenly cool. And quite rightly, too.
Sure, there's the added sun care responsibilities, and there may or may not be any proof behind the rumour that gingers feel less or more pain, but we're all easily capable of taking that in our stride. And no one can wear coloured clothing with as much aplomb as redheads do. I mean, green and blue? Those colours were made for us.
But as easy it is to be happy and comfortable with your red hair when you're older, it doesn't solve the problem of little redheads not feeling the ginger pride.
Ginger prejudice and the bullying of redheads (actually, just bullying in general) are still problems in the UK because society continues to treat red hair as a bit of a joke. Somehow, it's socially acceptable to make fun of gingers, both at school and in the media, and it's got to stop.
It does feel like things might be getting better though. In comparison to a few years ago, the red corner is now being fought by plenty of natural red-haired celebrities. These include Jessica Chastain, Lily Cole, Prince Harry and Julianne Moore, but we've also got some dyeing redheads in on the act. The likes of Emma Stone, Amy Adams and Christina Hendricks have all joined Team Ginger, and flawlessly so.
And of course, there's the ginger genius that is Princess Merida from Disney-Pixar's Brave. Having these role models flying the ginger flag really helps little redheads to get empowered from a young age, which is something I've always felt strongly about.
Before launching Ginger Parrot and writing about redheads on a daily basis, I came across countless tales of ginger bullying, and felt it was high time to give fiery flame-heads a voice, not just in an anti-bullying sense, but mostly to celebrate red hair and the MC1R gene that comes with it.
And considering that Anti-Bullying Week runs 17-21 November, it became the perfect time for Ginger Parrot to launch 'Ginger Juniors', a dedicated section of the website aimed at parents of redheads and gingers aged 16 and below.
From serious articles around anti-bullying advice to famous quotes about redheads, Ginger Juniors is an all-encompassing collection of information to celebrate and support redheads from a young age, to make them realise their genetic rarity and encourage pride in their identity.
Because, once you realise that you're not alone, it instantly gets better.
To any redhead reading this who is being bullied, or doesn't feel the ginger pride, I suggest this: Find enjoyment in what makes you different, but also embrace the bond that your natural gingerness offers when you meet other redheads. Attend gatherings such as the Netherlands' Redhead Days, the Irish Red Head Convention and Redhead Day UK.
Yes, natural redheads are a tiny minority of around 1-2% of the world's population, but there's still plenty of us to go around, be friends, share stories, and try to empower each other. And the earlier in life that happens, the better.
Ginger Parrot, the world's ultimate online hub for redhead-specific news, features, products and fun, launches 'Ginger Juniors' to encourage ginger pride among youngsters aged 16 and under, hoping to help stamp out the bullying of redheads for good.
Inspired by upcoming Anti-Bullying Week, which takes place on 17-21 November, the new Ginger Juniors section features specific information for both red-haired youngsters and concerned parents who want to inspire their little redheads.
For more information, visit Ginger Parrot at www.gingerparrot.co.uk.
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