11 Mar Singer who was bullied because of her hair is tipped to be the next Spiteri
The 25-year-old, who was named Scotland’s Best Unsigned Act of 2017, admits the abuse she suffered as a teenager became so violent she ended up being home schooled for her own safety.
Determined not to let her negative experiences define her, Stephanie found solace in songwriting – kickstarting a career that has led to her being tipped as the next Sharleen Spiteri.
If that isn’t enough to earn her a Sunday Mail Young Scot Award nomination, the talented singer is also donating the profits from her latest track to music charity Nordoff Robbins Scotland.
Stephanie, who performs with drummer Don Wilson, guitarist Johnny Queen and bassist Garry Aird, hopes her story of triumph over adversity will give other young people the courage to keep fighting.
The indie artist said: “My story could have had a very different ending. I could so easily have let the bullies win and become a product of my environment but I didn’t.
“I was determined not to let the bad experiences define me by turning what had been an extremely negative time of my life into a positive through my love of music.
“Everyone goes through tough times but it’s up to you whether you come out the other side stronger. If you channel your emotions in the right way, you can use them to do good and that’s what I’ve done.”
Stephanie, of Hamilton, who performed alongside Emeli Sande and Lewis Capaldi at last year’s SSE Scottish Music Awards, reveals she started getting picked on for her looks when she was about 12.
The singer-songwriter, who works at Glasgow’s PDSA vet hospital, said: “The first couple of years at high school were really tough. I was terribly bullied because of my ginger hair and because I was shy and took all the insults meted out to me without fighting back.
“I was such an easy target. The bullying ranged from the emotional to the physical and it escalated so much that, when I was in third year, the police became involved.”
After taking a stand against the main bully and answering back for the first time, Stephanie naively thought she had diffused the situation – how wrong she was.
She added: “I thought by standing up to the bully I had made things better so, when one of the cool girls from school called for me, I happily went out with them.
“I had no idea a huge gang of teenagers was waiting round the corner for me with broken bottles. They tried to stab me. I managed to run away and narrowly escaped with cuts and bruises.
“My parents called the police and, after liaising with the school, both the teachers and my parents decided the best course of action to ensure my safety was home schooling.”
Feeling isolated and alone, Stephanie took to songwriting in her bedroom, performing her creations on a £20 guitar.
She said: “During that terrible time, I took solace in songwriting.
“I found it extremely therapeutic as it was a great way of working out all my frustrations while keeping my hopes and dreams for the future alive.
“Everyone experiences some form of isolation in their life and the key is not to be a victim and to let events make you stronger rather than define you.
“I have no regrets about the two years I spent being home schooled. In fifth year, a place came up at Hamilton Grammar and I went there. I had a fantastic experience at the school and it restored my faith in education and in other people. It also gave me the confidence to share my music.” Stephanie, who last week performed to a sell-out crowd at King Tut’s in Glasgow, admits her first gig was terrifying.
She said: “Even though I started to write music when I was 15, I kept my singing to myself. I did my first gig at The Parkville Hotel in Blantyre when I was 17. It was packed to the rafters and I was terrified. I played one of my own songs and it went down really well.
“My hunger for singing was ignited and it’s just gone from strength to strength. I started doing open mics and gigs all over Lanarkshire and Glasgow.
“Then, three years ago, I met the band and we have been together ever since.”
She added: “We decided to enter the Spotlight with SSE on Capital competition hoping for a little bit of exposure. Winning the Best Unsigned Act and being given the chance to open the Scottish Music Awards and share the stage with some of the biggest names in the business was insane.
“Since then everything has just taken off. As well as being booked for lots of gigs and festivals, several record companies have expressed an interest. At the minute, I’m content being a girl boss, managing myself and the boys.”
It was while playing at the awards that Stephanie was inspired to help Nordoff Robbins Scotland, who provide music therapy to vulnerable children and adults. She said: “We were so moved by the work they do that we decided to donate the profits from our latest song Blood Sweat And Fear to the charity.
“The track features on our EP, which is out in May. We are also donating profits from the EP’s launch party, which is in G2 (The Garage) on May 5.”
Stephanie says her Young Scot nomination in the entertainment category is the icing on the cake.
She added: “I am overwhelmed and humbled to be nominated.”
Young Hero – sponsored by Co-op Food
Community – sponsored by the Scottish Government
Unsung Hero – sponsored by Solace Scotland
Year of Young People 2018 Champion of the Year
Excellence in Education – sponsored by University of St Andrews
Enhancing Education – sponsored by Skills Development Scotland
Sporting – sponsored by sportscotland
Health and Wellbeing – sponsored by Active Scotland Division
Equality and Diversity – sponsored by Standard Life Aberdeen
The Arts – sponsored by Creative Scotland
Entertainment – sponsored by Scottish Citylink
Environment – sponsored by QMS
Enterprise – sponsored by HSBC
Do you know someone as talented as Stephanie? If so click here and nominate them for an award. Winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at Glasgow’s SEC on November 30.