Bullying is a universal problem that affects everyone in society—young or old, we all know somebody who’s involved in bullying in some way, whether they admit it to us or not. Hurting others through their ugly words and actions, bullies can be found in every schoolyard, every workplace and any other place where people congregate. You can’t avoid them forever: they’re everywhere.
Even those who seem on top of the world aren’t free of the torment of bullying; several of the most successful celebrities on the planet have been victims in the past. Sadly, thanks to the consequence-free nature of social media, many famous people are still targets of hate, though they left their childhood behind a long time ago. While some celebs have been bullied in the past, others perpetrated the bullying. Now they’ve changed their ways, but they don’t deny the mistakes they made.
Those who suffered have strong words of advice for the people out there who are still suffering. And those who were bullies themselves can offer some insight into what leads people down that dark road in the first place. Read on to find out which of your favorite celebrities were victims of abuse, and surprisingly, which ones pushed that abuse onto other people.
16 Got Bullied: Lady Gaga Wrote All Her Anti-Bullying Songs After Drawing On Real-Life Experiences
If there is one pop star who is there for her young fans who are bullied, it’s Lady Gaga. Affectionately known as Mother Monster, the singer has penned a number of songs about embracing who you are and standing up to bullies, one of the most famous being her 2011 track ‘Born This Way’. But Gaga’s insight doesn’t come down to empathy alone: she too was a victim when she was younger.
While attending school in New York, the singer was picked on for her looks, her behavior and her passions. “…being ugly, having a big nose, being annoying,” she listed for Rolling Stone. Gaga said that all the hate made her want to miss out on school altogether. Luckily for her millions of Little Monsters, she was able to get through it and go on to help others going through the same experience.
15 Demi Lovato Was Bullied, But At Times, She Was Also The Bully
It’s no secret that getting bullied had some pretty devastating effects on singer Demi Lovato. The young star developed an eating disorder, fueled by taunts over her weight, and took many years to overcome it and gain her confidence back. In middle school, Demi was picked on by her classmates, but she now realizes that her own bully behavior is what provoked some of that treatment.
“I didn’t realize I was doing things that were also forms of bullying, like spreading rumors about people and gossiping,” she explained. “Gossip is essentially character assassination. When you spread rumors about someone, it’s a way of demoralizing them.” Though she’s been on a tough journey full of learning experiences, Demi is now closer to a place where she accepts herself and others.
14 Got Bullied: She's The Queen Of The Cool Squad Now, But Taylor Swift Had Trouble In School
There are people who seriously believe that Taylor Swift is a secret mean girl. We’ve seen no evidence to support this, but according to interviews with the star, mean girls have definitely been part of her life. She revealed that when she was in junior high, her group of friends one day decided that they didn’t want to know her anymore.
“They didn't think I was cool or pretty enough, so they stopped talking to me,” she revealed to Teen Vogue in 2009. “The kids at school thought it was weird that I like country [music]. They'd make fun of me.” The star has since penned songs to get back at the people who hurt her, including ‘Mean’ off her 2010 album Speak Now. There has also been a string of others, so the bottom line is you don’t just bully Taylor and get away with it!
13 Was The Bully: Vanessa Hudgens Became Vicious After One Too Many Fan Girls Chased Her Boyfriend
Vanessa Hudgens is another star who had an interrupted teenage life after being chosen to play Gabriella in High School Musical. To other girls, Vanessa had everything—she was the star of what turned out to be one of Disney’s biggest movies, she was young and gorgeous and she was dating Zac Efron. But Vanessa was secretly dealing with her own unhappiness and insecurities at the time, which caused her to lash out against others.
“I went through a phase when I was really mean because I was so fed up,” she said, detailing how she would give girls “death stares” when they would show interest in Zac (which must have been every minute of every day). Nowadays, the actress has learned that it’s important to not dwell on insecurity or frustration, instead choosing to “spread the love” and just be nice to those who support her.
12 Got Bullied: The Hate For Miley Started Long Before She Twerked On Any Stage
After transforming from Disney star to pop star, and kind of acting out in a way that many former child stars do, Miley Cyrus received a ton of hate from the world. She was called all sorts of names by the media, her fans and others in Hollywood, shamed for her actions and bullied by nameless voices online. This was hate and pressure on a whole other level to what most bullying victims are used to, but Miley had her first taste of it back in school.
When she was younger, a group of girls at her school locked her in the bathroom. The singer said that she spent what felt like an hour trapped in there before anybody came to her rescue. Her classmates also used to tease her about her father with taunts like, “Your dad’s a one-hit wonder. You’ll never amount to anything—just like him.” Awkward for them!
11 Was The Bully: Paris Hilton Was The Queen At School, And Everyone Was Scared Of Her
Paris Hilton was exposed to fame and endless fortune from day one. By the time she got to high school, those privileges had given her a strong confidence, and perhaps a sense of entitlement. She and Nicole Richie, her best friend at the time, ended up being leaders of the popular clique in high school.
Being the queen bee meant that Paris was so intimidating to other students that they were scared to treat her like they treated everybody else. “People didn't really start rumors about me in high school because they were scared of me,” she admitted. To imagine what Paris might have been like at school, you just have to watch videos of her asking Kim Kardashian to clean out her closet …
10 Got Bullied: Victoria Beckham Didn't Feel Posh As A Kid, When She Was Isolated And Picked On
In the 1990s, Victoria Adams rose to global superstardom when she became one fifth of the pop supergroup, The Spice Girls. After marrying David Beckham, she cemented her place as one of Hollywood’s most enviable stars. But things were a little less glamorous when she was a child, as she was often pushed around by other classmates.
Victoria recalled not having any friends to help her through the torture of being bullied, and had no choice but to keep to herself: “They were literally picking things up out of the puddles and throwing them at me, and I just stood there, on my own. No one was with me. I didn’t have any friends.” The singer also remembered bullies threatening to physically hurt her, and would chase her after school.
9 Was The Bully: Before Channeling Her Rage Into Her Music, Adele Took It Out On The People Around Her
Adored British singer Adele symbolizes so many things today—talent, confidence, work ethic, honesty and humility. When you watch interviews with her, she genuinely seems like she’d be a great person to get to know. That may be the case now that she’s grown up, but the singer didn’t exactly have a smooth schooling experience. In her younger years, she developed a reputation for fighting and anger, to the point where she was suspended from school.
Another classmate said something negative about Adele’s favorite reality show contestant, and in response, the singer instigated a full-on physical fight. She takes responsibility for that now, and today focuses her passion and emotion into her music instead. Adele has also been on the receiving end of verbal abuse since becoming famous, but doesn’t let it stop her from doing her thing.
8 Got Bullied: Even The Baddest Gal In The World Faced Hurtful Bullying As A Kid
Rihanna seems like the last person in the world to fall victim to bullies. Now the megastar wears what she wants when she wants, says what she wants to whomever she wants, and generally doesn’t care what the world has to say about her. Not exactly an easy target for bullies!
When she was a child growing up in Barbados, things were a little different. Rihanna still stood out from the crowd, but appearing different from her classmates led to her being picked on by them. In 2013, the singer told Glamour that she was teased the whole time she was at school, mostly for her skin color, which was lighter than most around her. But RiRi also said that this teasing helped to prepare her for the brutal ways of Hollywood.
7 Was The Bully: Lily Allen Sees The Error In Her "Horrible" Ways Now
Another star who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and seems to have a pretty thick skin is Lily Allen. But from what she’s said of her past, it doesn’t seem like that confidence came from being a victim of bullying. On the contrary, Lily appears to have been the one causing trouble on a few occasions.
As a child and teenager, Lily was expelled from school more than once, and this led to her not being able to form normal friendships. She has alluded to the fact that as an adult, she has been guilty of judging other women. In an interview with Shortlist, she revealed, “Men aren’t the enemy, I think women are the enemy.” She went on to say that now she understands women “should stop being so horrible to each other.”
6 Got Bullied: Before She Was The Duchess Of Cambridge, Kate Was A Victim Of Bullying
The Duchess of Cambridge, otherwise known as Kate Middleton, seems delicate and sensitive, but she’d have to be a reasonably tough character. After all, there are pressures all around her, from the royal family, the media and the millions of people analyzing her every move. Part of what helped her develop that inner-strength may have been the bullying she endured as a girl.
When she attended Downe House, a boarding school for girls, she was picked on for the way she looked, and the fact that she was such a “soft and nice” girl, according to her childhood friend Jessica Hay. The experience left such a mark on her that when she married Prince William, the couple asked their guests to donate to the charity BeatBullying (as well as to other organizations).
5 Was The Bully: Insecurity Is The Root Of Cruelty, And Led Gabriel Union To Gossip And Enjoy The Misery Of Others
Today Gabrielle Union is an advocate for women’s rights and a source of inspiration for young girls who want to make it in the entertainment industry. She’s also a sufferer of abuse. Part of being a role model is admitting to and correcting your flaws, and the actress has openly talked about how insecurity used to make her thrive on other people’s misery. While she may not have been the one causing bad things to happen to others, it’s almost (if not equally) as bad to sit back and enjoy it.
“I used to revel in gossip and rumors, lived for the negativity inflicted upon my sister actresses or anyone who I felt whose shine diminished my own,” she confessed while receiving an award in 2013. “I took joy in people’s pain, and I tap-danced on their misery.”
4 Got Bullied: Emma Watson Learned Kids Can Be Cruel, Even In College
Actress, women’s rights advocate and all-round superstar Emma Watson didn’t exactly have a normal childhood. As a little girl she was plucked out of thousands to play Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, and that was it as far as regular schooling is concerned. But unfortunately for Emma, bullying carries on well beyond the school yard.
When her Harry Potter chapter was finished, Emma tried to focus on other areas of her life and enrolled in Brown University. After she suddenly dropped out, many speculated that the decision was due to her being bullied by other students. Witnesses claimed that Emma would be mocked in class; whenever she answered a question, someone would utter, “Three points for Gryffindor!” The actress returned to Brown and graduated with a degree in English literature in 2014.
3 Was The Bully: Regina George Isn't Exactly Fiction - Tina Fey Drew Inspiration From Herself
When anybody thinks of a mean girl, their mind probably goes straight to Regina George. The Mean Girls character embodied everything ugly about female bullying in high school—rumors, gossip, manipulation, degradation and betrayal. Today, the film’s writer, Tina Fey, is a spokeswoman for women’s rights and is an inspiration for people all over the world. But back in high school, that probably wasn’t the case. You see, Tina based the character of Regina on what she was like as a teenager.
“I was [the Mean Girl], she told The Edit. “I admit it openly.” We’re not really sure what made Tina like this in high school, but it’s comforting to see that she’s learned from her mistakes and is now dedicated to raising awareness of the issue and guiding others out of similar experiences.
2 Got Bullied: No Matter Where He Went, Eminem Was Bullied Until His Mom Took Legal Action
If you listen to Eminem’s music, you gather that there are demons in his past. He dealt with a lot as a kid, and one of his biggest obstacles was continuously being picked on for being the outsider and not fitting in. The rapper moved from school to school as a child, but the bullies kept showing up, everywhere he went.
“I was beat up in the bathrooms, in the hallways, shoved in the lockers—for the most part for being the new kid,” he told Anderson Cooper in 2010. The abuse got so bad that on one occasion, Eminem, real name Marshall Mathers, was left with a serious head injury. His mother even sued the school district for failing to protect him from the bullies.
1 Was The Bully: To Stop People From Being Mean To Him, Lance Bass Was Mean To Others
Sometimes, people turn into bullies because if they don’t find someone for the group to pick on, they know they could end up being the target. That was the case with Lance Bass, former member of the ‘90s answer to One Direction, *NSYNC.
When he was in high school, Lance would make fun of people who were gay. “I wasn't one of those physical bullies, I never punched a kid, never pushed anyone down, never stole anything from someone. But we have to talk about the bullying of going along with the gay jokes and those type of stuff.” Of course, vicious jokes and gossip are also forms of bullying, and the singer now understands that though those actions weren’t right, he turned down that road as a way to deal with his own sexuality.
cheatsheet.com, michaelorba.com, clevver.com
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