Ginger Parrot interviews…Jake Wood

Known for his long-standing role as Max Branning in BBC’s Eastenders, Jake Wood is recognisable across the UK not just for his acting but also his smooth moves on the polished floors of Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.

Since he recently spoke out on social media and TV about the bullying of redheads, we made him our new Ginger of the Month and caught up with him to discuss the issue of ginger prejudice in more depth. In this interview we cover everything from his childhood as a redhead to what we can do to try to stamp out negativity around red hair.

 

 

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Who is your all-time favourite ginger and why?

That’s a good question. I think Henry VIII has got to be up there. And I’m reading a book on D-Day at the moment, so definitely Winston Churchill too. Those two are both pretty strong historical figures who had red hair.

 

You know, you always get that thing with old women walking up to you in the street and just sort of stroking your hair out of the blue!

 

What’s your favourite thing about being a redhead?

When I was growing up there was just that sense that you’re different, like you’re not the same as everyone else. You’re always told by adults how lucky you are and what beautiful hair you’ve got, so you know it’s special.

The best thing for me was the attention from adults telling you that you’re special, when you haven’t really done a lot, you’re just marked out by the fact you’ve got red hair. That awareness that you’re not the same as everyone else is great.

You know, you always get that thing with old women walking up to you in the street and just sort of stroking your hair out of the blue!

 

 

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Would you say that your hair colour contributes to your personality?

Yeah I’d definitely say that, I think it shapes who you are growing up. By virtue of the fact that you’re singled out from an early age it must change some aspect of you.

I’ve always been fiercely proud of being ginger. I think if I was ever teased or called names it would just make me more proud of being different.

So ultimately I think it makes you stronger and makes you the character you are – maybe you’re more resilient because you’ve been called names.

 

Have you always been proud of your hair?

I was always given positive affirmations by my parents and my mum specifically, so I think that I was always taught to be proud of being ginger, that I was lucky to be ginger and that it was a beautiful colour.

So because I was always proud of being ginger if I was teased then I was pre-prepared for it – I didn’t let it affect me too badly.

I don’t know if my mum did that preemptively but I was always given that belief by her, and I’ve done the same with my kids, too. From day one I’ve really instilled in them to be fiercely proud of their hair and I guess in some sense I’ve done that to stop them being singled out.

 

 

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Family is everything ❤️

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Does anyone in your family have red hair?

My grandad on my mum’s side was ginger, and then I think my dad’s sister was ginger. But my mum’s blonde and my dad’s got dark hair.

 

Would you say that ‘ginger’ and ‘redhead’ are interchangeable?

For me they are. I know that some people have a problem with the word ginger, that it’s got negative connotations and I suppose it has in some ways if it’s used in a derogatory way.

I don’t have a problem with the word ginger as such but I do have a problem with the intention, the way that it’s used. I think why not reclaim it as our own, right?

 

To be different is everything, so just be brave and remember that’s a good thing.

 

What advice would you give to redheads who are being bullied?

I suppose it’s like any type of bullying, how do you cope with such a thing. It can be really tricky if you’re the only one that’s being singled out. I would say, try and brush it off, male light of it, and most importantly, be resilient if you can.

In general I’d just say be really proud of your red hair and don’t bow down to them. Maybe it’s out of jealousy or it’s because you’re different but you should choose to see that it’s a great thing in this world. To be different is everything, so just be brave and remember that’s a good thing.

 

And do you think attitudes in society are changing towards red hair?

I don’t know. I think it’s so easily dismissed if a ginger person says they’re being teased. People don’t really take it seriously, so in that respect I don’t think anything has changed, because people don’t see it as being worthy of a subject to be discussed – instead it’s seen as a bit of a joke.

If you talk to almost any ginger person they’ve got experiences of teasing or bullying, and somehow despite this everyone is just so quick to dismiss it.

Mostly everyone comes out of it more resilient but there’s a fair percentage of people with red hair where it’s affected them in a negative way for all their lives so that’s not acceptable in any way.

Hopefully that is changing though. I think the more people talk about it the more awareness there is of it. People can’t just dismiss it – I think that’s the important thing.

 

So would you say that speaking out about the issue is the best way to reverse this negativity?

Absolutely. I think you just have to get it into the conversation. I’ve talked about it a lot recently, particularly on Twitter, and even because of that I was ridiculed for opening the debate.

The same amount of people give you support as the amount who give you ridicule but that just proves that you’re onto something.

 

Watch Jake’s interview live on Good Morning Britain on the subject of the bullying of redheads…

 

Interview by Emma

 

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