Category: Celebrities Who Were Bullied

Jennifer Weiner

“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think that what doesn’t kill you makes you your best, kindest, most authentic version of yourself. The freaks and geeks don’t necessarily grow up to rule the world, but many of us do end up successful and a lot happier than we were as kids. My hope, now that I’m on the far side of 50, is that the pain I suffered means that the next generation will do better. My daughters know that being mean, that making fun, that excluding others is the worst thing they can do. And they know that I will come down on them like the relentless wrath of heaven if I ever learn that they’ve made another girl feel like she didn’t belong. Maybe some mean girls stay mean. And maybe some hurt girls never get over it. But maybe those wounds become our superpowers. Maybe they give us empathy and confidence and, most of all, best of all the ability to raise daughters, and sons, who will do better.” – ELLE

Priyanka Chopra

“Each morning I’d have to walk down ‘Main Street’ a hallway that ran through the middle of the school where all the lockers were. Everyone hung out on those stairs between classes, and whenever I had to pass by, my bullies Jenny, a ninth grader, and a devoted group of her friends would yell out to me.”

“Brownie, go back to your country! Do you smell curry coming? Go back on the elephant you came on.” (bullies comments)

“I tried to ignore them. I put my head down and made my way through that section of the hallway as quickly as I could. Then I tried avoiding Jenny and the other hecklers: I stopped taking the school bus; I stayed away from where they congregated. Sometimes I was alone; sometimes I was with my friends Camiele, Luba, and Forough, fellow outsiders who were treated exactly the same way I was. The four of us clung together, trying to create a sense of being cool and superior to combat the battering our egos were taking. But things eventually escalated. I was tired of being called names, having vile things written about me in the bathroom stalls, and getting shoved against lockers and buses. I’d spoken to my guidance counselor, but nothing much changed. I hadn’t wanted to involve them. My parents had raised me to be someone who finds solutions, and since I hadn’t been able to find a way to stop the bullying, I was starting to think that my solution was to go back home. I had been happy and confident when I arrived in Newton, but I couldn’t maintain my sense of self-worth. I started to believe that I was somehow less than those around me. I couldn’t sleep. My grades dropped.

One call home was all it took. My parents heard my pain, confusion, and complete emotional exhaustion, and my mom was on the next plane with my brother. That day, as mom and I stuffed into a backpack what was inside the metal locker. All the bits and pieces of my thirteen months in Newton, who I’d been and who I was still becoming, it was hard not to feel like I’d failed. But slowly, over time, mom and dad each helped me to rebuild the confidence I’d lost.” -People

Nick Jonas

How did the bullying you experienced in high school there affect you?

“I took it very personally. Deep inside, it starts gnawing at you. You don’t even notice the way you’re acting and how you’re reacting. I went into a shell. I was like, ‘Don’t look at me. I just want to be invisible.’ My confidence was stripped. I’ve always considered myself a confident person, but I was very unsure of where I stood, of who I was.”

After a year of it, you finally told your parents and moved back home. How did you rebuild your self-esteem? 

“A lot of kids go through this and don’t have the ability to get away from their tormentors. When I went back to India, I was surrounded by so much love and admiration for just who I was. My dad said, ‘Leave your baggage behind.’ And I tried to. In India I was in school, and I was onstage. I made new friends who were amazing and loving. I was doing teenage things, going to parties, having crushes, dating, the normal stuff. It just built me up.” -People

Lewis Hamilton

“We limit ourselves the majority of the time. And where it really hit me hard is: We should never have to dim our light in order to make others feel… If anything, we should shine as bright as we can to liberate others to do the same. I live my life by that quote. For so long in my life, I felt like I was dimming my light because I felt uncomfortable. When I was at school, I was dyslexic and struggling like hell. And one of the only few black kids in my school, being put in the lowest classes and never given a chance to progress or even helped to progress. Teachers were telling me, ‘You’re never going to be nothing.’ I remember being behind the shed, in tears, like ‘I’m not going to be anything’. And believing it for a split second. The most demotivating thing to hear, especially when you witness them doing the complete opposite with your white counterparts. I don’t actually hold any grudge against those people, because they fueled me up. There’s a lot of feelings that I suppressed at the time that I didn’t even realize that I suppressed, emotions and feelings that I had when I was younger and it all came up. There was a lot of the N-word going around. Go back to your country. Even today, I remember how terrifying it was. I really, really couldn’t understand it. It was like, are they talking to me? I’m from here. What do they mean? I could never understand it. When you’re being attacked, there’s this fear, there’s fear, and there’s anger as well because you want to get them back for the pain that they’re causing you. I never spoke about it to my parents. I didn’t speak about it to my mum, I didn’t think she’d understand. And my dad, I was probably too scared to tell my dad, because I didn’t want him to think I was a wuss. You know, I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t defend myself. I just remember a lot of times just being alone, just in tears in my room.

I love music so much. I would say music saves me every single day. People say ‘Lewis Hamilton’s doing music? Oh, I’m sure that’s going to suck.’ It’s only when they hear stuff that I do, then they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re actually pretty good.'” -Vanity Fair

Kal Penn

He had no idea he was ‘different’ until a playground bully called him the N-word in kindergarten.

“I didn’t even know what that word meant. But I knew that he thought I’m supposed to feel different and that was somehow bad. But I didn’t feel that way in real life.”

What he did feel was a call to the stage, finding his middle school drama club a place of refuge from bullying that targeted “kids like me or Praveen or Ed… because we were supposedly the weird, ugly, fat, skinny, dark fill-in-the-blank-different kids.”

Kal Penn (rejecting a friend’s suggestion of Kal Pacino) and soldiered through racist encounter after racist encounter. -People

Kheris Rogers

“My mom pulled me out of a school where I was one of only a few black students (I was being bullied because of my race) and switched me to a predominantly black school. Problem solved? Not exactly. Suddenly, I was being mocked and harrassed not because I was a minority, but because of my darker skin tone. That’s when I realized what colorism truly was: being belittled based on the specific shade of your skin. I was called names like ‘burnt biscuit’ and told that I’ve ‘been in the oven too long’¬† by classmates who were lighter than me. Those were hurtful ways of saying that I was too dark and therefore not as ‘pretty’ as a light-skinned black girl or an actual white girl. Because, I learned even black people have been historically conditioned to idolize white beauty standards. It was especially painful because I thought we were supposed to uplift each other. I thought I was in a safe space with my peers. But I could still feel the sting of racist attacks and taunting bringing me down. My grandmother from Louisiana, so she’s always coming up with fun and clever ways to phrase her feelings. When she first told my sister and me to ‘flex in our complexions,’ I didn’t realize how important her message was. But after being teased for so long, it sunk and it has been a part of me ever since.

You’ll find colorism in unfair treatment in the school system (dark-skinned girls are three times more likely to be suspended from school than our lighter-skinned peers). It pains me to see so many young black queens and kings trying to dim their own light because they feel pressure to conform to what the world has told them is beautiful. But I see that changing, and I’m going to be part of that change. I hope you’ll join me. I want you to know that if you feel different, or anything less than proud of your complexion, you need now, more than ever to find your allies and stand by each other’s side.” – GL

Ann Wilson

“I was bullied heavily in the 80s, and that was about the only time I let it get to me. I found ways to love life so that I could compartmentalize the notion that somehow I wasn’t good enough. After a while you just kind of go, ‘I am what I am.’ I finally got to that, and I just thought how meaningless it is to judge someone strictly by their appearance. You’re looking at a picture and going, ‘Oh, that’s not right. She’s not following the rules.’ I was never one for rules.” -People

Lady Gaga

“I was a deep thinker and was spiritual and creative when I was very little. I would posture ideas to myself and those around me. Who am I? Who are we as humankind? Then I began channeling this into music, characters in school plays, poetry. Needless to say, at some point, lots of people found me peculiar. Weird was a word I heard a lot. Thus began my journey with bullying. Once I was thrown in a trash can by a group of boys shouting, ‘That’s where you belong!’ I had depression, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, and masochistic tendencies that included scratching or cutting my arms with knives when I was in emotional distress. I still struggle with some of these things. My trauma history is extensive. I was repeatedly r**ed when I was nineteen. I grew up around alcoholism. Finally, I have at least figured out the through line of all the things I’ve been through. In every instance, there was an absence of kindness. It’s important to pause and think about what you’re doing, in case you might hurt someone. And by someone, that includes yourself. Don’t just respond with kindness, fill the empty with it.” -People

Viola Davis

“I know how bullying feels. I understood how the world defined me at that point in 1973, as a dark-skinned Black woman. That’s a brutal one-two punch, that not only are the bullies running after you, calling you ‘black ugly n*****’, but the world sees you like that. How you react is based on survival. The key is to survive. I did what was at my hand to do at 8 years old. I fought. And that fighting served me because I’m still on my feet. I can look back at that little girl and feel great compassion for her but also I can look back at those bullies, and I can forgive. What I understand now at 56 is the gift of my powers but also the limitation of it. The only person I can save is me. Listen, when you’ve taken your last breath, it’s about your journey. You and you alone. All of those things happened to me, but I own it. And it’s a part of who I am.” -People

Winnie Harlow

Harlow was bullied and tormented by classmates over her appearance.

“Growing up. I never saw anyone like me on TV. billboards or on the runways. I felt like I was the only person in the world like me.”

Things began to shift in her teens when a friend, journalist Shannon Boodram, encouraged her to pursue modeling.

“She used, to photograph me a lot, but I never took it seriously. The more I did it, the more of a following I gained on social media. I was getting a lot of love and support and people telling me that I inspired them. So I was like, ‘If doing this thing that’s just fun for me is inspiring people, then it’s a win-win.” -People