Lily Cole gained acclaim as a model, is an ambassador for the Body Shop, an actor (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), and in 2011 achieved the academic honor of a Double First in History of Art from Cambridge University.
The Wikipedia page notes she supports a variety of humanitarian and environmental causes. and “is passionate about fair-trade and sustainability in business.”
In an interview article for a UK newspaper, she commented, “My dissertation was very philosophy-driven. I used art…to explore all the other degrees I didn’t do.
“So there was a little bit of science in there, some philosophy and politics.”
She also paints – “I tend more to abstraction – but not as much as I would like to because of time.”
And she will be hosting “Lily Cole’s Art Matters,” a series on contemporary artists, for the Sky Arts Channel.
The article notes she was raised in London by her mother, an artist and writer, and at school was harassed by other children.
She comments, “I was bullied because I have red hair, although actually, I think I was bullied because some kids bully sensitive children.
“I was of the type who gets bullied rather than the one who does the bullying, which I’m glad about. I’d rather be that than a bully.”
She adds, “Red hair is an issue, particularly in this country. Teachers often let it happen because there isn’t a stigma around it in the way there is, quite rightly, about something like racism. Racism has a huge stigma attached to it and therefore it isn’t played out so carelessly.
“Any form of bullying should be stamped on because children are so fragile and it affects them. It’s horrible.
“The names I was called – carrot-top, ginger, all the usual ones – sound quite trivial. Now I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. But it’s not so much the words; it’s the meanness behind saying such things to a child.”
One consequence, she remembers, was “feeling very insecure. When I’d meet people, I would think they wouldn’t like me – that was an actual thought process – because I’m a redhead. It’s absolutely absurd! The irony is that now I love my hair.”
From ‘I’d rather be the one who’s bullied than the one who does the bullying’: Lily Cole on being a red head, posing for Playboy and getting a double first from Cambridge, By Martyn Palmer, Mail Online [Daily Mail UK] 19 May 2012.
Gifted kids bullied more
A report from Purdue University a few years ago said “Bullying in the gifted-student population is an overlooked problem that leaves many of these students emotionally shattered, making them more prone to extreme anxiety, dangerous depression and sometimes violence.”
Researchers “found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students had been victims. Varying definitions of bullying in other studies make comparisons difficult, although the prevalence here is similar to findings in a few other studies.”
“All children are affected adversely by bullying, but gifted children differ from other children in significant ways,” says Jean Sunde Peterson, an associate professor of educational studies in Purdue’s College of Education.
“Many are intense, sensitive and stressed by their own and others’ high expectations, and their ability, interests and behavior may make them vulnerable. Additionally, social justice issues are very important to them, and they struggle to make sense of cruelty and aggression. Perfectionists may become even more self-critical, trying to avoid mistakes that might draw attention to themselves.”
From Study: Gifted children especially vulnerable to effects of bullying, by Purdue University News Service, 2006.
Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D. is author or co-author of a number of books, including The Essential Guide to Talking with Teens.
A personal story
Reading about Lily Cole’s experience reminded me of when I was a kid in Cub Scouts – or maybe Boy Scouts.
At one of our meetings, some of the other boys got the idea to have some fun by pantsing someone. I was the chosen victim, and when several boys had grabbed me and pulled my pants down, within less than a minute I was feeling traumatized, and cried.
So the adult scoutmaster stopped the “entertainment.” But I was called a “cry baby” by one or more of my “friends.”
Looking back, I think this had a strong impact on my feelings toward and connection with other kids, and sense of safety with adults.
I don’t clearly recall how my parents responded; they may have taken me out of the troop.
But in general, telling a sensitive kid to just “get over” being bullied, directly or by implication, is not an adequate response.
Read many other posts on my Highly Sensitive site.