What Was Your Childhood "Bully Word?"

'America's Next Top Model' contestants recall what they were taunted for as kids

Kids will tease each other about anything. A little girl could be a slip of a thing but be called Fatty Patty simply because of her name. A boy who dares to enjoy theater or fashion might end up taunted for being “gay.” Ears don’t lay as close to your head as Heidi Montag’s newly pinned-back lobes? You’re Dumbo! Ha ha.  I recall grade school chants of “Leslie the Lesbian,” not because I had an obvious crush on my hot teacher, Miss Meucci, but because the two words happen to share the same first three letters (good thing my parents didn’t name me Titianna).  

But no matter how ridiculous or senseless the bullying may be, it can haunt us for years -- or even decades -- to come.  Tyra Banks knows this: The supermodel tycoon was mocked for having a “fivehead” (a big forehead) before being discovered in high school. So for last night’s episode of America's Next Top Model, she challenged the contestants to reveal their childhood “bully word,” and then reframe it as something positive. (Tyra Mail: "Ever been bullied? What's the one word that hurt you the most? Love, Tyra.")

At Smashbox Studios, each model had her negative word painted on her body, along with a "power word" to counter it. Among the words that were transformed:

Kendall’s bully name: Oreo (because she’s a black woman who “acted white”)
Kendall’s power word: Nubian Queen

Ann’s bully name: Giant
Ann’s power word: Amazon

Tara’s bully name: Soup Cooler (for her large lips)
Tara’s power word: Lucsious Lips

Kayla’s bully name: Queer
Kayla’s power word: Free

Esther’s bully name: Weirdo
Esther’s power word: Independent

Sara’s bully name: Manly
Sara’s power word: Athletic

Liz’s bully name: Mutt
Liz’s power word: Biracial Beauty

It’s noteworthy that you’d never come up with these bully words simply by looking at these women today. I mean, really -- Soup Cooler? What deranged tyke minds come up with this stuff?  Besides, the joke's on the bullies themselves (who often grow up to be total losers) because the characteristics they pick on their peers for typically work to the victim's advantage when they’re grown. Dorks become millionaires. Freaks become creative geniuses. And physical characteristics that earn a third grader scorn -- like gangly limbs, incredible height or pillowy lips -- can pave the way towards a successful modeling career. Meanwhile, a not insignificant number of the most popular kids wind up preggers at 17 and have to drop out of college early, or can only find work as party promoters or Hooters managers.

I'm feeling empowered! Taking a cue from Tyra, I’m reframing my childhood taunts:

Leslie’s bully word #1: Cow
Leslie’s power word #1: Statuesque

Leslie’s bully word #2: Lesbian
Leslie’s power word #2: Adventurous

Leslie’s bully word #3: Slut (despite the fact I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 19 -- I could’ve starred in Easy A.)
Leslie’s power word #3: Affectionate


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