Kate Winslet told thousands of young people to stand up to bullies – and put down their phones – in an inspirational speech at Wembley Stadium.
Some 12,000 young people gathered at the stadium for the fourth WE Day, to celebrate their commitment to taking action on issues that affect their communities and others around the world. They were joined by celebrities including Winslet, Jessie J and Paula Abdul.
The Oscar winner spoke about how schoolyard taunts about her weight forced her to “rise above it all” and achieve her dream of becoming an actress.
Winslet, 41, isn’t currently promoting any films, but took time out to inspire the youngsters, encouraging them to “be indestructible… and believe that you are worth it”.
“I had been bullied at school. They called me Blubber. Teased me for wanting to act. Locked me in the cupboard. Laughed at me.
“I wasn’t the prettiest. I was even told that I might be lucky in my acting if I was happy to settle for the fat-girl parts. [Casting agents] would say, ‘You’re just not what we’re looking for, Kate.’ I’d hear that a lot.
Winslet recalled how she chose to ignore negative feedback and became a hard worker, auditioning for school plays and accepting roles as a scarecrow or “a dancing frog,” because they gave her a chance to learn and grow.
“I didn’t lock myself away and give up on my dream. I fought back.
“I had to ignore the negative comments. I had to believe in myself. I had to choose to rise above it all, and I had to work hard.
“You have to be indestructible to do what you love, and believe that you are worth it. And sometimes that’s the hardest part.
“One day, I was cast as Rose in Titanic. The most unlikely candidate –Kate from the sandwich shop in Reading – suddenly acting in one of the biggest movies ever made.
“You can be from anywhere and you can do anything, believe it. It is possible to overcome your fears.
“I learned to embrace my flaws, to make no apology for who I am. I dug deep and I decided that I simply wouldn’t listen when they said my body didn’t fit. This is who I am, the real me, Kate from Reading.”
The mother of three – Mia Honey Threapleton, 16, Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes, 14, and Bear Blaze Winslet, 3 – also urged the young people to abandon their smartphones and talk or hug one another to communicate instead:
“Put down your phone. Today, social media robs so many of us of just basic conversation.
“We are constantly distracted from being our true selves in a world that is fuelled by inst-tweet-bookface, as I like to call it.
“Let’s think about how else to share… Share a real chat with the person sitting next to you, share stories, share being in this moment. By talking. Or with a hug.”
It’s not the first time Winslet has spoken about being teased over her weight in her youth. In 1998, after the release of Titanic, she told Rolling Stone magazine:
“When I was 16, I was fat. It was a family thing. My uncle is a chef. My mother is a fantastic cook. Kind of unavoidable. I sensibly lost the weight doing Weight Watchers. End of story.”
However the taunting continued into adulthood. Titanic director James Cameron nicknamed her “Kate Weighs-a-Lot”.
Since that 1997 blockbuster raised her to superstardom, Winslet has used her platform to promote more honest images of beauty.
On signing an endorsement deal with L’Oreal, she made sure the company wouldn’t retouch her photos to conform with “someone else’s idea of ‘perfect’.”
WHAT IS ‘WE DAY’?
Canadian brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger are authors, social entrepreneurs and activists for children’s right. They have founded Free the Children, an international development and youth empowerment organisation; Me to We, a social enterprise which sells ethical products to fund Free the Children; and We Day, an annual youth empowerment event.
WE Day has one of the largest non-profit Facebook pages in the world, with over 3.5 million likes. The associated “1 like = 1 dollar” fundraising campaign, where the event’s sponsors donated one dollar for each like on the WE Day page, raised over $US2 million for Free The Children.
Since 2007, WE Day participants in Canada, the US and UK have raised $US45 million, which was given to more than 1000 charities. Participants have also volunteered 14.6 million hours for local and global causes and collected 2500 tonnes of food for local food banks.
Independent research found that 98% of WE Day participants believe they can make a difference, and 80% of WE Schools students report they volunteer more than 150 hours each year.
Supporters include Prince Harry, Sir Richard Branson, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.