Fame and fortune can’t completely erase memories of childhood bullying, though — in some cases — it can offer a sense of sweet revenge in later years.
Access Hollywood hit the red carpet at the 6th Annual Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Respect Awards on Friday night, where stars shared their personal stories of childhood torment.
“[Corky Ballas and I] were both bullied as kids for different reasons,” Florence Henderson told Access, of she and her “Dancing with the Stars” partner. “We were so poor as kids — I’m the youngest of 10 kids, and they would make fun of me because, you know, I had a hole in my dress, or no shoes, or no school books. It’s hurtful.”
The “Dancing” cast member (and former “Mrs. Brady”) was able to push through the pain by keeping her sights set on her future goals.
“Inside I just thought, ‘That’s OK — I won’t let that get me down. I will be somebody, and you won’t, because you’re not a nice person,’” Florence said. “And I just held on to that.
“I held on to faith, and that I would make it. And I did,” she smiled.
Florence’s “Dancing” co-star, professional dancer Louis van Amstel, shared similar sentiments.
“Unfortunately, I was bullied as a fat kid and as a gay kid,” Louis said. “I mean, at the age of 10, being at school, being a dancer, they automatically assumed you were gay, and at the time, you don’t know what that means. I was 10 years old for crying out loud!”
Louis, who says becoming a “world champion in your field” is “the biggest revenge,” tasted a bit of victory over his childhood tormenters when he attended his 20th high school reunion last year.
“All those bulliers changed their tune because they’re still in their own hometown,” he smiled. “Some have been in jail, some are out of jobs, and look where I am — in Hollywood! It’s the biggest revenge.
“That’s my message for everyone who gets bullied: find something that you’re good at… put your mind, body and soul in it because when you grow up, you’ll look back as a stronger human being,” he added.
ABC’s hit comedy “Modern Family” was honored by GLSEN at the event for portraying a diverse American family, and show star Jesse Tyler Ferguson revealed that antagonization by his childhood classmates reached a fever pitch in eighth grade – forcing the actor to switch schools in order to escape his tormentors.
“I was bullied all through school… It was very difficult — I felt very lonely,” Jesse told Access. “I didn’t have the resources that a lot of people have today. I just kept reminding myself that the world was way bigger than high school… I had my eye on getting out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, I had my eye set on pursuing a career in the arts, and I knew that it was going to take another year of me kind of turning a blind ear to bullies.”
Even 11-year-old “Modern Family” star Nolan Gould has been bullied.
“About two or three years ago, in third or fourth grade, I was bullied for being short — which is funny because the kid who was bullying me, I’m now taller than,” the young star said. “The best way to get revenge is just to wait it out, and something like that will happen.
“It takes a stronger person to keep their mouth shut than to throw a punch, because even if you have a thousand insults, it’s harder to keep your mouth shut, and that shows people that you truly are strong,” Nolan added.
As previously reported on AccessHollywood.com, bullying has come to the forefront of the public eye as five teens committed suicide in recent weeks after being bullied, taunted and or tormented for being gay. Numerous celebrities have rallied to bring attention to the issue — comedian Margaret Cho wore a rainbow-colored dress on Monday night’s “Dancing with the Stars” performance, and dedicated her dance to LGBT youth.
Ellen DeGeneres also expressed her anguish over the situation on her talk show last week, while Kathy Griffin, Wanda Sykes, Lance Bass, Nate Berkus and Tim Gunn shared their thoughts on Monday’s “Larry King Live” about the harrowing subject.
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