London - As a child, her frizzy ginger hair made her a prime target for playground bullies.
Devastated by taunts of ‘Orphan Annie’, Natalie Harvey dyed and straightened her hair as soon as she was old enough.
At 35, and having spent more than £10,000 (about R120 000) taming her locks, the mother of one thought she had left the abuse behind her for good.
But last year, it all started again after she posted a photograph of her childhood haircut on her Facebook page.
She was immediately targeted by cyber bullies and her Facebook and Twitter accounts were deluged with cruel comments.
One message read: “I can’t wait to pull off your wig and reveal your ginger afro hair to everyone.”
Another added: “Wait until everyone sees your ****ed up afro hair!”
The online hate campaign became so bad that she was forced to call police.
Mrs Harvey said: “I spent years desperately trying to cover my hair up. As a child, I would dread going to school because I would be spat at and called names like Annie.
“The children would laugh and spit at me. I felt like the ugliest kid in the world.
“One of my most common nicknames was microphone. Children used to tap me on my head and shout: ‘Testing, testing, one, two, one, two.’
“But I had learned how to manage it and thought the bullying had stopped. I always hated pictures of myself as a youngster but three years ago I felt confident enough to post them on Facebook.
“Then I started getting this abuse. I couldn’t believe it. It was so personal and nasty, and targeted directly at something that has affected me throughout my life.
“I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep or eat, and lost a stone in weight. I couldn’t believe that I was getting bullied at 35.
“At least at school I could see who was insulting me but this was so faceless. Now, bullies are able to hide behind their keyboards.”
She revealed that her family has also struggled to understand how she could have ended up with such unusual locks.
“People had never seen an afro like mine on a white person before,” she said. “Every single member of my family has straight hair.
“My dad even had doubts as to whether he was my real dad because my hair was so unusual.” Mrs Harvey, who is married to sales manager Ian, 36, said that as soon as she was old enough, she began to try to change her hair.
To date, she has spent more than £10,000 straightening, dying, tonging and chemically treating her orange curls.
After years of practise, she has perfected a two-hour daily hair routine of washing, blow drying and straightening – although she often wears a wig to hide her hair altogether.
Since the abuse began, Mrs Harvey, a teacher for adults with mental health issues, has deleted her Twitter profile and increased the privacy settings on her Facebook page. But she said: “Something has to be done about online security. I am an outwardly confident person but it really affected me.
“Every time I meet someone from school now, they say, ‘Oh, didn’t you have funny hair at school?’”
A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said: “A report was made to us on January 8 regarding messages received through Facebook and Twitter. An officer spoke to a person alleged to have sent messages regarding their actions.” - Daily Mail