Prince Harry: Why Australian 'rangas' see the royal as a hero

By Lauren Turner
BBC News

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Jada Quinn said Harry "appreciated the sign"

Redheads. Gingers. Carrot tops.

There are different words - some more positive than others - used around the world for people, like Prince Harry, blessed with red hair.

But when a little girl in Queensland held up a sign saying "Rangas rule" during the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's tour of Australia, you might have been forgiven for not knowing what it meant - if you don't live Down Under.

The Aussie slang, derived from orangutan, is another word for those with ginger hair - and Harry seemed to be taken by it.

Jada Quinn, nine, who held it up when Harry visited Fraser Island, said: "My dad is a ranga and I'm a little bit a ranga, and he appreciated the sign."

'Excited to see fellow ranga'

It's not the first sign proudly proclaiming his hair colour - he was greeted with a "Redheads rule!" sign on a trip to Canberra in 2015, telling Ethan Toscan, then 12, that "being a redhead is the number one thing a person can ever be".

Fellow redhead India Brown, 19, was overwhelmed when she met Harry in Melbourne earlier this month.

And then there was one woman in Dubbo, Tara Fisher, who said she wanted to meet Harry during his current tour because "he is a sexy ranga".

That's not forgetting the five-year-old who was so entranced by Harry's beard he decided to stroke it.

Another Harry fan, in Sydney, admitted: "You get excited to see a fellow ranga."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Harry meeting fan India Brown in Melbourne, who later burst into tears
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
This boy with red hair got Harry's attention at Melbourne's Royal Botanical Gardens

So why does it mean so much for redheads to see a royal ranga?

Well, it might be partly because there are comparatively fewer in Australia than in the UK, with Northern European countries having the greatest proportion of redheads than anywhere in the world.

Emma Kelly, of redhead lifestyle website Ginger Parrot, said Australia had a burgeoning ginger pride movement though, with an annual rally held in Melbourne earlier this month.

'Lovable ginger'

"I think ranga is seen almost as a term of endearment, though some find it offensive," she said.

"But I think people in Australia are proud of it now. It's nice that Prince Harry is such a great role model for all the redheads, no matter their age.

"I'm a similar age to him so when I was growing up and was being bullied, being given a hard time, he was always in the press and everyone loved him - he's a very lovable ginger. So it really put things in a positive light.

"He's really done well for himself, so it's seen as having someone on your team. There have been a lot of royal redheads and it's a great thing to be able to identify with.

"It's nice that he's so proud of it."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The duke and duchess on Bondi Beach

Redheads have also been saying they hope that Meghan and Harry's baby will share his red hair (one writer for Mamamia has already written an open letter to the unborn royal baby, saying it would be a "genetic ninja" if it was born a redhead).

"We have a lot of people visit the site, wondering if their baby will be ginger," she said.

"But many don't realise you need ginger genes on both sides. That said, having freckles - as Meghan does - is quite a good indicator you have the gene, although it's not a dead cert."

'We love an underdog'

Fellow redhead Rowan Bruce, an accounts manager from Melbourne, said the perception of red hair was slowly changing in Australia.

"The word ranga can be a bit of a dig, as it's from 'orangutan'," he said.

"It only came up towards the end of the time I finished high school - I got called things like 'sauce head', as in tomato sauce, as well as some more colourful things.

"These days it's not really a put-down to say someone's a ranga but it's not exactly a compliment either. It's got a bit of heat to it.

"In primary school, having red hair was definitely a detriment. It was like a beacon for bullies. I dyed my hair so many different colours - blue, black, blond."

Image source, Rowan Bruce
Image caption,
Rowan says he only knows a handful of people with red hair

Rowan, 34, said he only knows three or four other people with the same colour hair and that while it's rare in Australia, things are changing in terms of how people see it.

"While I don't really care what people think any more, the perception has definitely changed," he added. "While we owe a lot to Ron Weasley, I think Prince Harry has helped too.

"He's seen as a bit of an underdog, and in Australia we love an underdog. Whether you're royal or not, a ranga is seen as being an underdog here. Everyone loves rooting for him."

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