When Ginger Pride landed at the Northern Life office I realised that one of my secrets was about to be revealed! As Karen, our very proud redheaded editor, went around the office questioning everyone about whether or not they had any ‘ginger genes’ I knew that I’d have to admit… that my brunette locks are not as au natural as everyone thinks they are… they’re actually hiding my secret strands of red! Sheepishly admitting I dyed my hair, Karen told me all the best people were ginger and proud of it. She then handed me Ginger Pride – A Red Headed History of the World and told me to get reading! One of my favourite sections was the Famous Redheads… who knew that Winston Churchill was a ‘Carrot Top’ too? Here is a selection of my favourite famous redheads featured in the book…
1The soulful poet: Sylvia Plath
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And eat men like air.
These immortal lines are taken from Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Lady Lazarus’, which was originally published posthumously in 1965 in the collection Ariel. The poem uses German imagery while also dealing with themes of death, failure and resurrection. ‘Lady Lazarus’ describes the speaker’s unsuccessful suicide attempts, finally ending in her rebirth as a mythical bird, the phoenix, which in mythology rose from the ashes. Critics are divided as to the message these final lines convey – a demonic transformation or a change in direction?
Plath is best remembered as a poet and for the tragic way she ended her life, committing suicide at the age of 30 after years of depression. However, there’s far more to Plath than a handful of poems and an early death. She was and continues to be one of the great shapers of cultural, literary and feminist intellectualism in the modern era, her voice speaking to the generations of women, writers, academics and cultural theorists that have followed. And nor was she solely a poet. Her novel, The Bell Jar, remains one of the seminal works of roman à clef narrative prose (a form of fictionalised autobiography). The book, which details the struggles of growing up, has been popular among young readers since its publication in 1963.
2World leader: Winston Churchill
There are few people you’d want more than Winston Churchill in your corner during a crisis. The former British Prime Minister’s legacy was solidified during the war-ridden decades of the early 19th century, a time during which Mr Churchill is believed to have played a hand in defending the United Kingdom from the terror of the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler’s world-dominating political strategy. And it just so happens that Churchill was a redhead to boot.
Churchill’s shadow as Prime Minister looms large over the course of modern history, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that before he took office in Parliament, he was already an immensely successful man, and quite a well-known British figure. He was a writer – both a journalist and an author – who penned several works of non-fiction. He also published a novel and a short story, and in 1953 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Both his written work and his work as an orator (he wrote his own speeches, too!) made Churchill an important historian and human rights activist, his Nobel Prize win distinguishing him for his historical and biographical depictions and for his defence of human values.
It’s also worth remembering that Churchill was a soldier before World War I, and was re-elected as Prime Minister for a second time after World War II, in 1951. While he will most commonly be remembered for his actions during the years 1939–1945, his achievements and successes were far more expansive. He will go down in history not only as a great politician, but one of the greatest men and one of the greatest leaders of the free world of all time. Ginger pride, indeed!
3Simply Red: Mick Hucknell
With a band named Simply Red, charismatic lead singer Mick Hucknall is not only a fellow redhead, he’s an ambassador to gingerdom. After Hucknall’s first band, The Frantic Elevators, split, he and his manager put together a new group in 1985. The group was to be called ‘Red’ in honour of Hucknall’s flame coloured hair, and the nickname he’d had for his entire life. Mick decided to add ‘Simply’ to the beginning, and the rest, as they say, is history. With over 50 million records sold and a slew of pop hits such as ‘Fairground’ and ‘Stars’, Simply Red has become an icon of the global music landscape.
But Mick hadn’t always been a supersuccess. He grew up in a single-parent household, raised by his barber father, and ran amok as a teen, finding school depressing and boring. Like all gingers, the Huckster has copped his fair share of follicle flack, especially at school. In his own words: ‘I’d get hit and punched and there was a kid who used to do these weird drawings of me with red hair. It was just the most bizarre thing. It was all purely because I had bright red hair.’
Today, however, Hucknall is mostly known for two things:
- Being a heart throb of the 1980s and a lothario of legendary proportions (he once dated Catherine Zeta-Jones, FYI), and…
- Being one of the greatest blue-eyed soul singers of all time.
Not bad for a ginger.
4Modern monarch.. one day: Prince Harry
Prince Henry of Wales (Prince Harry to most of us) keeps alive the tradition of redheaded royals. And his stint in Australia, where he worked on a cattle station after graduating from Eton in 2003, might have helped keep those follicles freshly flaming courtesy of the outback sun.
While some might remember him for his tabloid scandals (the ginger community does not endorse dressing up like Hitler, by the way), the young prince’s party animal days are far behind him. Today’s he’s a pretty darn good representative for gingerdom – he’s seen military action, after all; he even knows how to fly a helicopter, for crying out loud. And then there’s his humanitarian work; he’s become an ambassador for both children in need and for wounded soldiers.
Watch out folks. This is one ginger who might actually reign supreme.
5The stuff of nightmares: Bram Stoker
As far as shaping the collective consciousness of the modern world is concerned, Bram Stoker rates pretty highly. Bram Stoker is of course the 19th century Irish author best known as the creator of Count Dracula, who first appeared in Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Within the book, Stoker established so many of the conventions and characteristics we associate with vampire mythology and lore today. Since its publication, the inspired works of art, literature and screen adaptations that the novel has spawned have been innumerable, and the legacy of the ongoing feud between Stoker’s characters has lived on in the collective imagination of generations since.
The battle between Count Dracula and the novel’s protagonist, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, is an age-old fight between good and evil, between light and darkness, and we can only imagine it will continue to entertain, terrify and enchant those who encounter its renderings for centuries more to come.
At this point, do we really need to mention the colour of Mr Stoker’s hair?
Way to shape the world, gingers!