Poor me! I wasn’t bullied as a child. Except for the usual: I was called a “lezza” once for hugging my friend and stabbed in the arm with a compass in maths. But never any really decent bullying. If only there had been, by now I’d be more of a success. A bit more thwacking in the playground and today I could be sashaying down red carpets or reclining in my penthouse giving interviews about “my struggle”. No such luck.
By contrast, Kate Winslet hit the jackpot. Last week she gave an Oscar–worthy performance about the torment she endured at school. Adorned with plain Jane specs, she regaled an audience of adolescents with tales of how she’d been called “Blubber” as a kid.
Not because of her ability to blub about anything — see her cri de coeur about the agony of being called middle class when in fact she was brought up on “dreadful second-hand cars” and holidays in Cornwall — but because she once had some puppy fat. Her suffering was such that her acting dreams were almost ended. At best, she was told, “I might be lucky . . . if I was happy to settle for the fat girl parts.”
This was a shocking revelation. Not least because this is the same Winslet who landed her first commercial at 11 and became head girl of her theatre school, where she won a run of lead parts in their shows. By 15, she was starring in a BBC series; at 17, she was cast in her first film. With such a packed résumé it’s not quite clear when her teenage dreams were crushed.
After two decades of Hollywood adulation, you’d think Kate, now 41, would have better stories to tell instead of revelling in a lame insult. Except, what would be the point? These days being bullied has more cachet than success. Which celeb didn’t suffer as a kid? Every supermodel was awkward, every actress an outsider, every pop star anxious and depressed. It’s surprising Oprah Winfrey finds room on her couch for all the sob stories. What seemed like a promise to destigmatise “issues” has turned into a celebration of suffering — as if it is trauma, not talent, that gives stars their X-factor.