Madelaine Petsch said playing Cheryl Blossom on Riverdale helped her understand her own experience with being bullied

Aside from the red hair, Madelaine Petsch is nothing like her Riverdale character, Cheryl Blossom. Although the 25-year-old actress plays an extremely convincing leather-jacket-clad boss bitch on the CW teen drama, in real life, Petsch is not as harsh a person as Cheryl is. But, it turns out, embodying Riverdale’s resident bully has helped Petsch see her own experience with bullying in a new light.

In an October 3rd interview with Seventeen, Petsch revealed she was bullied while growing up, and it took a massive toll on her. With bright red hair, a religious upbringing, a plant-based diet, and starry-eyed dreams of becoming an actress, Petsch felt like she was different from the kids around her—and her peers used her differences to pick on her.

"I had everything up against me, like all the things that made me unique were the things that people would chip away at," she told Seventeen. "I remember someone made a really awful Facebook or MySpace page about me and my best friend. We were so mortified. Hearing what other people say on social media makes it so hard to fight back."

Although dealing with her bullies was tough while growing up, taking on the role of Cheryl on Riverdale has helped Petsch look at her experience from a new perspective.

“I've learned the mindset of the people who bullied me very well because Cheryl’s been a bully on the show," she said. "I've learned that the people who've made the most fun of me as a kid probably had their own shit that they were going through. And so they were taking it out on other people. And that breaks my heart.

Luckily, something that Petsch does have in common with Cheryl is that she’s a fighter. She worked three jobs (barista, hostess, and personal assistant) while trying to make it big in Hollywood.

Petsch admitted to Seventeen that her red hair continued to be a source of struggle for her, as she thought it might be limiting her from landing roles. She even considered dyeing her hair brown in hopes that she might book a part more easily, but her mom convinced her otherwise.

And who knows? Petsch might have never landed the role of Cheryl Blossom if she had gone brunette. TBH, we can’t imagine anyone else rocking a red serpent jacket like Petsch does.

Take it from Petsch: Don’t change the things that make you unique—even if they might make you feel like an outsider. They’re probably your greatest strengths.

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