No one is immune from being bullied
Winona Ryder has been a figure in Hollywood for nearly 30 years, but she may have hit her absolute peak recently with her role in Stranger Things. Though she’s been acting in both blockbuster and art house films for decades, she was once the target of bullies just because she looked different. Had it not been for those negative experiences, though, she may have never taken up the noble profession of acting.
Winona opened up about her experiences with bullies and how one of them didn’t even recognize her years later.
When Winona Ryder was just a teenager, she was obsessed with the movies. In particular, she was so fond of the 1976 children’s musical gangster comedy Bugsy Malone that she cut her hair to match that of the star’s main character played by Scott Baio and wore a boy’s suit. She didn’t look conventional in the mid-80s, and it led to her being bullied by her schoolmates.
“I remember the halls were empty and these kids started shouting ‘f*ggot’ and I didn’t think they were talking to me,” the Stranger Things star told V Magazine in 2013. Apparently, the bullying got so bad that it turned physical: someone slammed her head into a locker.
She continued about the attack in the book Winona Ryder: The Biography, “I fell to the ground and they started to kick the s**t out of me. I had to have stitches.” The most unfortunate part of the attack was that Winona was kicked out of school, while her bullies were not punished.
Fodder for Fame
While this moment could have destroyed young Winona, she used it to fuel herself to succeed. She told V about the immediate aftermath of being attacked:
“Walking home after leaving the nurse’s office—and I’ve never talked about this—I remember pressing on the bandage because I wanted it to look more dramatic. I was pretending I was in some gangster movie. It was oddly my way of dealing with it, because if I didn’t, I probably would have been really scared.”
Her parents decided to homeschool her — and enrolled her in American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for an extracurricular activity. It’s there that she was discovered by a casting director, and given a role in the 1986 film Lucas.
She explained about this turn of events, “Had I not been homeschooled I would not have been able to go. It’s almost weird fate that it happened that way.”
Winona was cast in a movie the following year, then she got her big break in the 1988 film Beetlejuice. She also made 1969 and Heathers that year.
Confronting the Past
Winona’s life was on an upward trajectory through the 1990s, and she was becoming more and more famous every year. She was used to being asked for autographs by fans, but she never expected to be approached by one of the people who attacked when she was in high school.
“Years later, I went into a coffee shop and I ran into one of the girls who’d kicked me and she said, ‘Winona, Winona, can I have your autograph?’” she said about her strange experience. Winona realized that the person was her bully who pushed her head into a locker and got her kicked out of school.
She continued, “And I said, ‘Do you remember me? Remember in seventh grade you beat up that kid?’ She said, ‘Kind of.’ And I said, ‘That was me. Go f**k yourself.’”
Winona has been working fairly consistently since the late ‘80s, though as she got older, she chose roles based on what she wanted to do and not what would keep her in the spotlight. She said, “When I think about the stuff I’ve turned down or the stuff I wasn’t interested in, I don’t have any regrets.”
Her role as Joyce Beyers in Stranger Things has brought her back into the public eye, and her fans are thrilled to see her being appreciated again.
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