Whittle: 'I wanted to be white'

Ricky Whittle

Hollyoaks actor and current Strictly Come Dancing favourite Ricky Whittle has revealed what it was like being bullied when he was young. He caught up with 1Xtra News to explain why he told his mum he didn't want to be black and says that bullying has only made him stronger.

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I was very young. I guess with most kids, if you're different - obviously myself being black that was the bit that stood out - but with kids you could be tall, short, fat, thin, blond, red-head. It's just something that's different to the - I suppose - norm.

They'd say little innocent things from: 'Has God painted you?' and 'Are you a chocolate boy?' to cruel taunts, vicious words like the 'n' word… things that are quite hurtful and malicious.

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It was just down to me being different. Growing up in Northern Ireland it felt like I was possibly one of the first black kids that they'd even seen.

I think literally my family was one of the only black families in the area.

There were a couple of Asian families, and there were about four Asian kids in the school but the majority were Northern Irish kids. So I was the only black boy in the whole school.

At the time it's a lot more painful. When you're younger you do take things personally.

'Want to be unique'

Growing up, at that time, I didn't want to be black because I was bullied and I'd tell my mum that I wanted to be white like everyone else at school.

She just said: 'Listen, when you're older you're going to really appreciate this. You don't want to be the same as everyone else, you want to be different and you want to be unique.'

It has happened that way and I'm enjoying my culture and my background.

Watch Ricky Whittle and other celebrities offer their confidence tips

As you grow older kids grow out of it and Great Britain is obviously getting a lot more multi-cultural now.

I don't think there is a 'normal' British person now. I think it was just the fact that I was young and kids do point out differences when they're younger and latch onto those things.

Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe
Ricky and Strictly partner Natalie Lowe are amongst the favourites

I don't think it's worse [bullying] if it's racism or whether it's about your weight or your glasses because they're all things you can't change, it's who you are.

'Stronger person'

It's the way that things are said.

If things are said maliciously and they're meant to hurt then that's the sort of thing we need to try and stamp out. We can't all be the same.

I'd like to think it's made me a stronger person and a much more relaxed person.

Growing up it kind of became water off a duck's back, you kind of got used to it.

My dad was in the RAF so every three years we moved to a different country and it was only the initial first couple of months until people get to know you and they realise: 'You know what, you are the same as me and it doesn't matter about the colour of your skin or where you're from or your background'.

They get to know you and they realise that you are the same. Once people start to realise that colour is just that, it's just a colour, then things got a bit smoother.