I can’t remember the first time I was called ‘ginger’, but that might be because, as a kid, I lived in complete denial.
It wasn’t until I got to 18, and the school ground bullying subsided, that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Now, I wish my hair was more ginger.
I choose my clothing in ways to not only complement my hair colour, but to also clash with the red – the louder the better.
I spent so long trying to melt into the background. In school I thought hair dye was the answer to all of my problems and I went from blonde to brunette, but the names kept coming.
I’m now making up for lost time. Yes, sunscreen is a large part of my life, but I’ll take the good with the bad.
Eventually I wanted to talk about it all, my company Ginger Parrot was born and now I’m advocating ginger pride on a global scale.
I want redheads of all ages to realise as early as possible how freaking cool their ginger hair is, and to be empowered by their own genetic rarity.
In her youth, my nan had bright red hair and was known as ‘fire bucket.’ She now has a silvery-white shade, but we have bonded over our hair and how proud we are to be redheads.
People sometimes ask whether talking about ginger pride and redhead bullying could actually make the abuse worse, but I wholeheartedly disagree.
Yes, like many redheads, I sometimes feel that ginger hair actually acts a beacon, alerting bullies to vulnerabilities and otherness, but if you own what you have and show everyone that you love it rather than feel ashamed of it, it can no longer be used as a weapon.
I truly feel that if I had owned my hair when I was younger, the bullying wouldn’t have got to me so much.
I understand, however, that when someone says to you, ‘Oh well, you’re ginger so you can shut up,’ there’s not much you can say back.
Pointing out someone else’s differences is such a weak and cowardly way to make yourself seem better, but it usually works, and that’s why the behaviour continues to happen.
Ironically, the person who bullied me most was also a ginger girl.
It wasn’t until I went to university that I realised the brilliance of my hair.
I met so many interesting people who all had fascinating stories of travel and excitement away from school.
Suddenly, being able to stand out from the crowd was incredibly cool. I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘hang on, I’m different without even trying – that’s pretty handy.’
After being told I was ugly as a child, people were now saying it made me a ‘siren’.
Standing out from the crowd isn’t considered a positive thing when you’re younger, following the herd is far more appealing.
But when I did stand out, it was amazing.
I’ve come to realise that having red hair has given me licence to be whatever I want to be: outspoken, kind, friendly, understanding, quirky and more.
Fiery is also on that list, which is a stereotype I get quite a lot.
Mostly I’m passionate about standing up for others, and maybe that does come from my own experiences as a redhead. I don’t believe anyone should ever feel like they’re worth less than anyone else.
Emma Kelly is the founder and editor of Ginger Parrot, a place for redheads to read about fashion, music, beauty, film and celebrity news.
Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity — positively or negatively — and what the label means to them.
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