How ‘Riverdale’ Helped Madelaine Petsch Overcome Her Own Bullies

From a look, it’s onerous to imagine Madelaine Petsch was bullied.

Her lengthy ginger-red locks are coveted by 2.1 million Instagram followers. She’s within the working to turn into one in every of movie’s subsequent huge scream queens, with a key function in Harvey Weinstein’s anticipated horror, “Polaroid,” out in August. And she’s at the moment filming Season 2 of The CW’s breakout teen noir-mystery, “Riverdale.”

But regardless of her function as Riverdale High’s sass-mouthed queen bee, Cheryl Blossom, Petsch, 22, was removed from fashionable rising up. “I was mercilessly bullied,” Petsch stated.“I was a little kid with a South African accent and bright red hair. I was the weirdest kid in this small town in Washington.”

Raised because the youngest daughter of two South African immigrants, Petsch spent most of her childhood between the United States and South Africa, the place she additionally holds citizenship. With a lot time outdoors the U.S., Petsch developed a thick South African accent early on—one thing that made her simple prey for bullying when she began college.

Photo: Gilles Toucas

“I was the only person who was from somewhere else, so I think they just didn’t understand it,” she stated. “They said I was a weirdo or that I didn’t belong there. That was the hardest one when people said I didn’t belong there.”

Petsch shortly realized to masks her accent and undertake an American one. But the bullying didn’t finish there: Though her pure vibrant crimson locks have turn into synonymous together with her model and iconic  “Riverdale” character, Petsch had removed from the identical loving relationship together with her hair rising up—with names like, “carrot top,” “firecrotch,” and “weirdo” thrown at her in school. Not precisely perfect.

“I was bullied a lot for having red hair,” Petsch stated. “It really affected me in the beginning because I was the only kid, especially first through sixth grade, who was really mercilessly bullied, and I never really understood why.”

As a approach to mix in, Petsch started tying her hair into a good ponytail as to not draw consideration to it. Dull denims and saggy sweatshirts turned staples in her wardrobe. She stopped speaking and withdrew extra into herself. At one level, she even thought-about dying the information of her hair brown to match the ombre-style of her classmates. “My mom was like, ‘If you do that, I’m disowning you,’” she stated.

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Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Things began turning round when she moved to an arts academy for highschool to pursue appearing, a ardour she realized at 5 after enjoying Shere Khan in a neighborhood manufacturing of “The Jungle Book.” “I’ve been a villain my whole life, apparently,” Petsch joked.

Instead of listening to names like “carrot top” and “fire crotch,” Petsch heard praises from her new classmates who adored her pure shade. “People were like, ‘Your red hair is amazing!’ I always thought it was a curse,” Petsch stated. “I realized the things people made fun of me for were the things that made me unique.”

The newfound confidence translated to her profession. At 18, Petsch packed her baggage and moved to Los Angeles, the place she labored a three-job rotation as a espresso store supervisor, pictures assistant, and hookah lounge waitress. It took years earlier than she landed her huge break in 2015 when she auditioned for “Riverdale,” a brand new teen drama primarily based off the Archie Comics—a collection she held dearly even earlier than she was solid. “I used to read the Archie Comics strips in the Sunday paper with my dad,” Petsch stated. “It’s now this really special thing that bonds us.”

Months later and Petsch obtained the decision that she was solid as Cheryl Blossom, a sharp-tongued Regina George-esque imply lady with a secret delicate aspect, who’s embroiled in a deep homicide thriller after shedding her brother in a boating accident. It was a task that gave her closure for the bullying she skilled as a child.

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Photo: Getty Images

“After playing Cheryl, I realized the bullying doesn’t come from anything, but insecurities in oneself. The people who are bullying you, they’re insecure about who they are and that’s why they’re bullying you. It never has to do with the person they’re bullying,” she stated. “They desperately want to be loved and be accepted, and they go out of their way to make people feel unaccepted so that they’re not alone.”

It’s this similar degree of complexity that Petsch believes units “Riverdale” aside from the teenager dramas earlier than it. Since the present’s breakout success, Petsch has obtained an outpouring of assist from followers who reward the present for its correct portrayals of highschool bullying, despair, slut-shaming, abuse, and suicide—all matters Petsch not often noticed addressed on tv rising up.

“When I was a kid, I would watch shows like ‘Gossip Girl’ and feel like life needed to be a certain way because of how it was represented on TV and I was doing it incorrectly,” Petsch stated. “For the longest time, TV shows were this unrealistic facade of tales of growing up, which, when I grew up, made me feel like I was alone. It was such a small representation of life being shown on screen.”

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Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

It’s a duty she expects movie and tv to have, particularly works directed at teenage audiences, contemplating how a lot of an impression on-screen illustration can have. “We are in a new age with television and film,” Petsch stated. “Now, TV shows are showing all kinds of scenarios and people from all walks of life, bringing to light all these real things that happen in day-to-day life. We needed a more accurate representation of life on screen and we are working toward that.”

This is probably going why, as somebody who was bullied, Petsch is so adamant on portraying each side of the coin to point out that even essentially the most assured have insecurities: “There’s no perfect life. There’s always something going on behind the curtain that people don’t know about,” she stated.

As for learn how to overcome bullying, Petsch advises embracing your variations relatively than shaming them—one thing she’s lastly been capable of do herself. “It’s about finding where you’re comfortable with yourself and staying true to yourself no matter the circumstances,” she stated.

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