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Red and proud: The gingers fight back

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Enough is enough – it's time to kill off gingerism, argues redhead SARAH MORAN.

Enough is enough – it's time to kill off gingerism, argues redhead SARAH MORAN.

It is an issue that has faced us redheads for years, but well done to Wolverhampton's very own Laura Payton for standing up and for speaking out about the prejudice we face day in and day out.

Being offensive about redheads has never been more topical after the recent story of Mrs Payton who received a £150 payout from the Halifax Bank in the Mander Centre after she was ridiculed by a staff member for having ginger hair.

The mother-of-two, of Wychall Drive, Bushbury, was stunned when the bank assistant quipped that she bet Mrs Payton was glad her daughter wasn't "ginger like you" when a picture of her three-year-old flashed up on her phone.

But open the pages of any celebrity magazine and it looks like a red army has taken over, with stars turning their tresses auburn, copper, burgundy and even pillarbox red to get noticed.

However, being a natural ginger in everyday life is a different prospect altogether, it seems. Many lifelong redheads, showbiz stars among them, have suffered teasing, even bullying, among their peers because of the shade of their hair.

Colour prejudice may be universally condemned in the 21st century – but try telling that to a redhead.

Gingerism appears to be alive and well with even the most politically correct of people feeling at liberty to call Titian-haired tots names like gingernut, carrot top and ginger minger.

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I didn't particularly get bullied at school for being a redhead, although I did attract the usual, predictable, nicknames like 'Duracell'.

It wasn't particularly upsetting, it was just what school life was all about. If it hadn't been my red-hair it would probably have been some other perceived 'flaw'.

One of my best friends, who I was at school with, has also got red hair and it makes us quite a striking pair when we're out and about.

I suppose I may have been less of a target as my hair is not vivid red, it's more of a chestnut colour. I've never dyed it as its never really bothered me. In fact as I've grown older I'm appreciating it more and more.

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There's a very, very small percentage of people on this planet who are natural redheads, just about two per cent. But we are one of the few groups of people that others still think it is acceptable to be openly derogatory about. It is as if just by virtue of our genes, others feel our hair-colour automatically makes us ever-so slightly inferior.

Laura Payton complained at what she felt was an inappropriate joke and received an apology as well as compensation.

The woman in the bank was being thoughtlessly rude. Clearly she was trying to make a friendly, chatty comment, but it was misplaced.

While supposedly caring that the daughter wouldn't suffer name-calling, the cashier was in fact enjoying a spot of name-calling herself.

It is like labelling all blonde people as bimbos. Haven't we all moved beyond making snap-judgements about someone's character or abilities just from the way they look?

Redheads have every right to feel proud about the way they look. And there are plenty of role models to follow as well. One of this summer's unexpected heroes was long jumper Greg Rutherford. Prince Harry may not have acted wisely in Las Vegas, but he is currently showing courage and commitment in Afghanistan.

Supermodel Lily Cole, film star Julianne Moore and Dr Who actress Karen Gillan are all beautiful and talented in their fields.

Yet all have all talked of being ridiculed over their flaming locks.

Earlier this year Lily Cole revealed she had been bullied for her distinctive ginger hair during her school years. She accused schools of not taking the issue of hair-based discrimination seriously enough, saying teachers are happy to turn a blind eye to children teasing others about their hair colour because it is not as stigmatised as problems like racism.

The 24-year-old, who has earned an estimated £4 million from catwalk modelling, said names like 'carrot top' and 'ginger' would not make her bat an eyelid today but can be traumatising to children because they are more vulnerable.

Flame-haired actress Julianne Moore, too, was bullied about her appearance by schoolmates but says she has grown to love being different over time.

The 51-year-old Oscar-winning actress was nicknamed Freckleface Strawberry at the age of seven but turned the childhood teasing into the title of a best-selling children's book series.

Doctor Who star Karen Gillan has told how she was itching to leave her home town of Inverness behind after being bullied at school because of her red hair, recalling how one pupil stopped her in a corridor and told her: "Eurgh, you're tall, lanky and ginger!"

She went on to become the face of fashion house Boing and started modelling for designer Allegra Hicks.

I would say to fellow redheads: "Be red. Be proud!"

We are very few and far between, and at a time when everybody seems to be striving for some uniformly 'attractive' look, we should celebrate being different and stand out from the crowd.

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