[ In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, How to be a Redhead is featuring stories about bullying and how redheads can turn their lives into success stories. This is Aija Mayrock’s story and her tips for those with red hair.]
Aija Mayrock, writer/actress/filmmaker, knows what it’s like to be bullied. Aija faced severe bullying in middle school and for part of high school. But Aija was able to take her experiences and thrive. In her last two years of high school, Aija began writing a book called The Survival Guide to Bullying – released in September 2014. The Survival Guide to Bullying is an ebook and life saving device written by a kid for a kid. It helps middle school and high school kids deal with bullying whether it’s inside or outside of school. This guide provides useful, go-to information that can be used at any point of distress, loneliness, or frustration. It has also been written in collaboration with a psychologist, a teacher, and a parent for all perspectives.
We had the opportunity to speak with Aija one-on-one about her experiences and her advice for redheads. “Although I am not a redhead, I know what it’s like to be targeted for what I look like,” said Aija. “I was often bullied over my face, my body, and my thick, curly hair. But these unique parts of my being are what make me, me. Just like a redhead.”
Redhead celebrities have spoken out about redhead bullying being a real and severe occurrence when growing up. Lily Cole (left) told Live magazine “When I’d meet people, I would think they wouldn’t like me – that was an actual thought process – because I’m a redhead. It’s absolutely absurd! The irony is that now I love my hair.” And recently, Jessica Chastain spoke out about bullying in the November issue of Glamour Magazine. Both have proven the bullies wrong and are now powerful forces in society.
Just like Cole & Chastain, Aija suggests focusing on your passions because it WILL get better. The young author, filmmaker and actress could have let bullying consume her, but she decided to concentrate on the positivity of life, rather than the negative. She has gone on to win the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 10-10-10 Competition at 14 for a screenplay she wrote. The following year she was a 10-10-10 Film Festival finalist for directing and writing other films. She has also won gold and silver keys from the Scholastic Art and Writing awards. Most recently, Aija was the face of the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Sizzle Reel where she filmed and interviewed the Academy Award Nominees.
She said, “I know how redheads feel if they hate looking different because I was bullied for it. But now I look in the mirror and I love what I see. I love being different – looking different. I’m not cookie cutter looking and that’s okay. I used to wish I could change what I looked like so I would fit in and not be noticed. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I want to be different.”
Upon graduating high school this year, Aija made it her goal to publish The Survival Guide to Bullying book as a gift to the next generation of kids who will be bullied. “Redheads, remember that bullies target the best and most unique features in others because they are jealous. I used to want to have thin, straight, blonde hair because everyone would bully me for my thick, curly hair. And now my hair is one of my favorite physical attributes. I’m so glad that I left it thick, curly, and brunette.”
Aija’s book stresses the importance of realizing that one day you will love what makes you YOU! “I do understand the pain of wanting to change something you were born with. I know what it’s like to be bullied for a part of yourself that you can’t really ever change. I know what it’s like to be isolated for being different. But I also know how incredible it feels to one day love what makes you different.”