There are plenty of celebrities who were bullied at school and are now successful singers. Bullying has become a huge problem in the UK and can cause immeasurable damage to its victims. If you’re experiencing any form of bullying, it’s important to understand that you are not alone.
It can happen anywhere, be about anything and being a famous singer doesn’t make someone immune from bullies. Sometimes if a person is seen as different, talented or special it can be a magnet for unkind criticism.
We’re making an effort to bring attention to the issue of bullying and find ways to help put an end to this brutal behaviour. Here are some inspiring stories for you on the subject from some familiar faces.
Celebrities who overcame bullying
Being famous does not inoculate you against the cruelty of school bullies. Here are 7 famous singers who were bullied in school:
- Ed Sheeran
- Taylor Swift
- Lady Gaga
- Zayn Malik
- Jessie J
- Susan Boyle
Famous people who were bullied
#1 Ed Sheeran
The English singer and musician is one of the most successful British Artists in the charts.
However, like many of us, Ed had a rough childhood and was bullied every day at school for his ginger hair, having a stutter and for wearing oversized glasses.
|“Being ginger can seem like a bad thing when you are young but as a musician it has been my saving grace – because if you see a ginger kid on TV and there is only one messy-haired ginger kid who plays guitar, it is very easy to find them on YouTube.”|
— Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran struggled to speak in class and attended speech therapy, but things improved dramatically when his father bought him an Eminem album. Amazed by the speed of his rapping, Ed learned every word by the time he was 10.
He then began writing more of his own music, and eventually, his stutter disappeared.
Back in 2015, Ed made an inspiring speech after being honoured at the American Institute for Stuttering’s Freeing Voices Changing Lives Benefit Gala totally rising above all that negativity.
#2 Taylor Swift
Now one of the world’s biggest pop stars, Taylor also struggled with bullying at a young age.
Junior high was a hard time for the singer, who was dumped by a group of popular girls. “They didn’t think I was cool or pretty enough, so they stopped talking to me.”
Once she’d signed a record deal, those same girls who’d taunted her came to one of her performances.
Taylor said, “It was bittersweet, because it made me realize that they didn’t remember being mean to me and that I needed to forget about it, too.”
Known for writing about her personal life in her songs, she wrote ‘Mean’ in 2011 with anti-bullying themes.
|“I’ve learned a pretty tough lesson that people can say whatever they want about us at any time, and we cannot control that. The only thing we can control is our reaction to that.”|
— Taylor Swift
She then wrote ‘Shake It Off’ in 2014 to “take back the narrative, and have more of a sense of humour about people who kind of get under my skin — and not let them get under my skin.”
#3 Lady Gaga
Known to her fans as “Mother Monster”, Lady Gaga has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT+ rights and has always taken the time to help fans that she sees struggling.
She was unique and had a very strong sense of character from her early years.
Again, she experienced the worst bullying while at school just for being different.
|“The boys picked me up and threw me in the trash can on the street, on the corner of my block while all the other girls from the school were leaving and could see me in the trash. And everybody was laughing.”|
— Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga now says her experience of being bullied as a child only made her stronger in the long run. When Ed Sheeran quit Twitter because of all the negative comments, she was quick to come to his defence:
She started the Born This Way Foundation to, “foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.”
Go check it out!
#4 Zayn Malik
Known as the “Bradford Bad Boy” of One Direction for his tattoos and rock star hairstyles, Zayn has seen his share of criticism and anti-Muslim comments, which led to him deleting his Twitter account in 2012.
|“You can say whatever you want about me, I’m not really bothered. But when it starts to upset people I care about or I hear about it from my mum, then that’s a problem.”|
— Zayn Malik
In 2016, US singer Azealia was banned from Twitter after she called Zayn “Punjab” and “token brown boy” in an unprovoked attack. He responded with class:
@AZEALIABANKS why you been saying nasty things about me ? I wasn't talking about you lol ?
— zayn (@zaynmalik) May 11, 2016
Confident in his own skin, he has a tattoo on his chest in Arabic which says ‘Be true to who you are’ and he’s become an official ambassador of the British Asian Trust charity group.
Lorde has spoken publicly about her struggles with stage fright, body image and anxiety, after her quick ascent to pop star fame.
After her single Royals became a massive hit, she experienced intense online abuse about her appearance online. Trolls attacked her awkward stage presence, her figure and even her eyebrows.
|“I remember being made aware of my looks and my body in a way that I had never been.”|
Since returning home to New Zealand, the distinctive singer hasn’t let her detractors get her down.
“I think my whole career can be boiled down to the one word I always say in meetings: strength.”
#6 Jessie J
Jessie J had a serious heart condition as a child, “I was a sickly, skinny girl who had a slight green tinge to her skin because of the drugs and who was always in and out of hospital.”
Kids called her Bugs Bunny because of her big teeth.
She’s said that didn’t sing in secondary school because she didn’t feel supported by the school.
When she auditioned for The BRIT School for performing arts in Croydon, she found her voice. She graduated the same year as Adele and Leona Lewis.
|“Suffering bullying means that you are special and that’s what I want all children to know.”|
— Jessie J
Jessie went on to write the song ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ to start a conversation about bullying and how to get help.
#7 Susan Boyle
Before winning the nation’s hearts on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, Susan suffered from constant bullying as a child. She had a reclusive nature and learning difficulties (she suffered minor brain damage due to a birth defect).
“I was called names. I told the teachers, but because it was more verbal than physical, I could never prove anything,”
Susan dreamt about being a singer from a young age, but it was her performance at age 47 on BGT that propelled her to fame.
To raised eyebrows from the judges Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan, and stifled laughter from the audience, Susan sang ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Misérables in her first audition for the show.
|“I know what they were thinking, but why should it matter as long as I can sing? It’s not a beauty contest.”|
— Susan Boyle
From the very first notes Susan sang, her voice impressed both the judges and the audience. Her performance ended in a standing ovation.
“You said you wanted to be like Elaine Paige and everyone laughed at you. Well no one is laughing now.” Said Piers.
Simon Cowell added, “I knew the minute you walked out on that stage that we were going to hear something extraordinary, and I was right.”
Her debut album was recognised as the fastest selling UK debut album of all time. She’s sold over 19 million albums worldwide and has received two Grammy Nominations – proving that you should never judge a book by its cover.
Have you experienced bullying?
We feel it’s all of our responsibility to put an end to bullying and its devastating consequences. Expect more posts from us on this subject and how to rise above the bullying in future!
Visit our charity partners Kidscape to find out what you can do and share your thoughts in the comments below.