Mandy McElhinney, the actress who shot to fame as Rhonda in an insurance commercial, has revealed a childhood of cruel taunts over her red hair.
McElhinney told Herald Sun Confidential: "I was a minority in my community. I learnt I had to be funny or tough to survive the stigma of being different.''
The star of AAMI commercials, Howzat: Kerry Packer's War, and Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, grew up in country and coastal WA.
"There was always taunting: ranga, matchstick, carrot top, freckle face,'' McElhinney said.
"At the time, it did sting. I think kids, when they're different, get pointed out.
"I chose to say: `Yes, I am different, what are you going to make of it?'
"I chose that road, and I'm glad because bullying can be a terrible thing.
"But I managed to survive it. It shaped who I am.''
McElhinney won the bullies over by being funny and performing plays.
"I had some wonderful teachers who let to go with my clown antics,'' she said.
"I would do little plays, different characters, and disappear behind the teachers desk, and change costumes.
"I carved out my own little personality that way.''
McElhinney added: "It's all very cliche, but I was a very shy kid who found some sense of freedom and confidence in performing.
"I knew the first time I stepped on stage that I felt at home there.''
This month, she is shooting Love Child, a drama inspired by the forced adoption policies of the 1960s for unwed mothers.
McElhinney plays a hospital matron.
The actress said she is thrilled with the scope of roles being offered to her.
"I feel incredibly fulfilled,'' she said.
"I don't feel like I'm in any particular box. I feel like I gave freedom to choose.''
With a new AAMI commercial airing last week, she also outlined her future hopes for Rhonda _ and they don't necessarily involve Ketut, her love interest in the previous campaign.
McElhinney laughed: "I would love to see Rhonda travel to the world to lots of exotic locations for the rest of her life.''
Love Child screens on Channel Nine in 2014.
Proof of Story
No proof images submitted yet.
No proof audio submitted yet.
No proof video submitted yet.
No comments yet.