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REAL LIFE

Who are you calling a loser? SAMANTHA HARDMAN fashion dESIGNER, 30

When I look at myself in the mirror, the confident businesswoman I see staring back is light-years away from the pimply teenager who was once the butt of every joke. Yet it seems like only yesterday that mean girls made my life utterly miserable. Looking back, you could say I was a classic dork; I was always one step behind the eight ball when it came to clothes, hairstyles, tastes in music and everything else. In primary school, most of the bullying was quite petty – girls would routinely refuse to sit next to me in class – but things really escalated when I started high school. I was immediately singled out as a “nerd” and one girl in particular made life hell. She and her gaggle of followers hounded me constantly; they’d hit or kick me in the corridor, pelt eggs at my head and make up malicious lies about my “third boob”. But it became even worse when, on the last day of year 12, my main tormentor poured motor oil on me and chased me around with a lighter, threatening to set me on fire. To this day, I still have gut-wrenching nightmares about that terrifying ordeal. When I left school, I was determined to put my past behind me and made lots of nice friends at uni, where I studied a double degree in marketing and e-commerce. By my 26th birthday I was earning a six-figure salary working in senior management at a bank. But I gave it all up to start my own fashion label and now, two years later, This Is Bento is stocked alongside Jayson Brunsdon and Akira in the country’s top boutiques. It’s ironic that I was bullied for being offbeat and I’m now dictating what women wear. I wouldn’t have said it at the time, but that period was a blessing in disguise; I truly believe I’m more assertive as a person and businesswoman (I don’t put up with crap from any PRs!) than I ever could have been if I’d had a really breezy childhood. I’ve learned there are bullies in all walks of life and you can either let them destroy you or pick yourself up and move on – I chose the latter and I’m proud of that. 34

A new book claims social exclusion as a teen can lead to success as an adult. Three Aussie women who survived schoolyard torment tell Grazia why revenge is sweet…

women p

on to

ullies b y m K N A H ‘I T skin k c i h t a e m g n i v for gi cceed’ u s o t E V I R D and a

CHRISTINE CRONAU AUTHOR, 40

IED L L U B s a w I t ha ow n ’m ‘IT’S ironic tF I d n a T A BE ar’ e w n for being OF G e m o w t a h w DICTATIN

There’s one thing in life I couldn’t be more sure about: for the “cool” kids – those who torment others for kicks – school is the best time of their lives…but it’s all downhill after that. Karma comes around and they usually end up absolute underachievers, while their victims tend to thrive because they have far more gumption and determination. That’s true of my own life, which saw me dominated by bullies during high school. I was earmarked as a “dag” from day one because my family wasn’t very well off. My clothes were second-hand – the subject of much ridicule on mufti days – and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for a hairdresser so my hair was never nicely styled.

The boys in my class would throw books at me when the teacher’s back was turned or poke fun at my flat chest, asking why I wore a bra when I had nothing to fill it. My maiden name was “Huestis” but almost everyone called me Christine “Useless”. The nastiness was constant and had a disruptive impact on my learning; you can only be called “idiot” and “dummy” so many times before you start to believe it’s true. After school, I started my career as a technical writer but hated working for someone else, which I think stemmed from being bossed around so badly by my peers. I started researching real estate and, eventually, investing in commercial property. By 35, I’d made my first million buying and reselling offices and other work spaces. When I went to my 20-year high-school reunion, it was funny to see how the tables had turned; my bullies looked haggard, while everyone said how well I’d aged. Funnily enough, it inspired me to share my tips on healthy living and I published a book, Great Health Is A Piece Of Cake, to help other women look and feel great. I now have two kids – Zac, 15, and Anna, 11 – and I’ve instilled a strong sense of self in both, which has allowed for a much happier school experience than my own. That’s a huge relief to me because bullying can be souldestroying – something that, unfortunately, is reflected in today’s high youth suicide rates. Still, I’m not bitter or resentful about the pain I endured. On the contrary, I thank my bullies for giving me a thick skin and a drive to succeed. u www.grazia.com.au 35


REAL LIFE

Who are you calling a loser? SAMANTHA HARDMAN fashion dESIGNER, 30

When I look at myself in the mirror, the confident businesswoman I see staring back is light-years away from the pimply teenager who was once the butt of every joke. Yet it seems like only yesterday that mean girls made my life utterly miserable. Looking back, you could say I was a classic dork; I was always one step behind the eight ball when it came to clothes, hairstyles, tastes in music and everything else. In primary school, most of the bullying was quite petty – girls would routinely refuse to sit next to me in class – but things really escalated when I started high school. I was immediately singled out as a “nerd” and one girl in particular made life hell. She and her gaggle of followers hounded me constantly; they’d hit or kick me in the corridor, pelt eggs at my head and make up malicious lies about my “third boob”. But it became even worse when, on the last day of year 12, my main tormentor poured motor oil on me and chased me around with a lighter, threatening to set me on fire. To this day, I still have gut-wrenching nightmares about that terrifying ordeal. When I left school, I was determined to put my past behind me and made lots of nice friends at uni, where I studied a double degree in marketing and e-commerce. By my 26th birthday I was earning a six-figure salary working in senior management at a bank. But I gave it all up to start my own fashion label and now, two years later, This Is Bento is stocked alongside Jayson Brunsdon and Akira in the country’s top boutiques. It’s ironic that I was bullied for being offbeat and I’m now dictating what women wear. I wouldn’t have said it at the time, but that period was a blessing in disguise; I truly believe I’m more assertive as a person and businesswoman (I don’t put up with crap from any PRs!) than I ever could have been if I’d had a really breezy childhood. I’ve learned there are bullies in all walks of life and you can either let them destroy you or pick yourself up and move on – I chose the latter and I’m proud of that. 34

A new book claims social exclusion as a teen can lead to success as an adult. Three Aussie women who survived schoolyard torment tell Grazia why revenge is sweet…

women p

on to

ullies b y m K N A H ‘I T skin k c i h t a e m g n i v for gi cceed’ u s o t E V I R D and a

CHRISTINE CRONAU AUTHOR, 40

IED L L U B s a w I t ha ow n ’m ‘IT’S ironic tF I d n a T A BE ar’ e w n for being OF G e m o w t a h w DICTATIN

There’s one thing in life I couldn’t be more sure about: for the “cool” kids – those who torment others for kicks – school is the best time of their lives…but it’s all downhill after that. Karma comes around and they usually end up absolute underachievers, while their victims tend to thrive because they have far more gumption and determination. That’s true of my own life, which saw me dominated by bullies during high school. I was earmarked as a “dag” from day one because my family wasn’t very well off. My clothes were second-hand – the subject of much ridicule on mufti days – and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for a hairdresser so my hair was never nicely styled.

The boys in my class would throw books at me when the teacher’s back was turned or poke fun at my flat chest, asking why I wore a bra when I had nothing to fill it. My maiden name was “Huestis” but almost everyone called me Christine “Useless”. The nastiness was constant and had a disruptive impact on my learning; you can only be called “idiot” and “dummy” so many times before you start to believe it’s true. After school, I started my career as a technical writer but hated working for someone else, which I think stemmed from being bossed around so badly by my peers. I started researching real estate and, eventually, investing in commercial property. By 35, I’d made my first million buying and reselling offices and other work spaces. When I went to my 20-year high-school reunion, it was funny to see how the tables had turned; my bullies looked haggard, while everyone said how well I’d aged. Funnily enough, it inspired me to share my tips on healthy living and I published a book, Great Health Is A Piece Of Cake, to help other women look and feel great. I now have two kids – Zac, 15, and Anna, 11 – and I’ve instilled a strong sense of self in both, which has allowed for a much happier school experience than my own. That’s a huge relief to me because bullying can be souldestroying – something that, unfortunately, is reflected in today’s high youth suicide rates. Still, I’m not bitter or resentful about the pain I endured. On the contrary, I thank my bullies for giving me a thick skin and a drive to succeed. u www.grazia.com.au 35


REAL LIFE

SHEREEN KIDDLE PR PROFESSIONAL, 39

Rather than dwelling on the relentless name-calling and abuse (sometimes physical, but mostly emotional) that plagued my school years, I try to draw on the positives. It’s made me caring, which in turn has made me a better sister, mother and friend. I have no doubt my children – Anderson, 7, and Archie, 4 – will grow into emphatic people; I’m teaching them to consider others’ feelings so they never mistreat anyone. The parents of my bullies clearly didn’t take the same pains to educate their kids. Being a year younger than most of my peers made me an easy target; I was less secure in myself and much smaller height-wise, which didn’t help. I’d be riddled with anxiety every morning before school, knowing that I was at risk of being pummelled on the bus. The same went for toilet blocks and shops and parks after school. I maintained a quiet existence to avoid getting in trouble but it didn’t always work. I’d often be flicked with aprons by the girls, and shoved into lockers.

One time I was the subject of unwanted attention from a tough girl’s boyfriend, which resulted in me being labelled a “boy stealer”. I was issued a note every day for weeks warning me I’d be beaten to a pulp if I went anywhere near him (we’d never spoken to each other!). I was terrified but I didn’t tell my parents – I didn’t want to aggravate the situation. In Year 12, I was scouted by a modelling agent and started doing catalogue work. It gave my self-esteem a big boost and I began to think I wasn’t a “loser” after all. I left Tasmania after I graduated from uni, moved to Melbourne and picked up a glamorous job working for an events and client-management firm. I built up my skills and, in 2004, started up my own public relations and management company, Milkk PR, with my business partner. We’ve worked incredibly hard and represent big-name clients, like Slim Secrets and Beyond Coconut Water, and our reach is expanding. It’s a shame school had to be such a negative experience for me but I’m determined not to let my past haunt me – I’ve come out on top.n The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins (Hyperion Books, $37). 36

TASTED SWEET REVENGE? Email grazialetters@acpmagazines.com.au

AS TOLD TO: VANESSA LAWRENCE photos: Eamon Gallagher, Richard Whitfield hair & makeup: Kylie O’Toole, Marnie

T S A P Y M t e l ’t e ‘I won ’v I – e r o m y n a e HAUNT m e out ON TOP’ definitely com

Grazia - featuring Christine Cronau  

Grazia Magazine featuring Christine Cronau

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