Winona Ryder’s Middle School Bullies Didn’t Remember Beating Her Up, But She Couldn’t Forget

“Do you remember me?”

Anyone who denies the long-term effects of childhood bullying need only ask Winona Ryder what happened to her in seventh grade. The Stranger Things actress, who's already enjoying a career resurgence through her role in the Netflix hit, is even more internet famous these days because of that decades-old story.


Twitter user @bleuvalentine tweeted a version of the story on November 4, and that tweet has already been reposted more than 166,000 times.

Then, Mary Jane Weedman, a writer for Select All, tracked down Ryder's original quote, diving into the New York Public Library archives to find it in the August 2000 issue of Harper's Bazaar. Here's Ryder's story in its original form:

"I was wearing an old Salvation Army-shop boy's suit. I had a hall pass, so I went to the [girls'] bathroom. I heard people saying, 'Hey, faggot.' They slammed my head into a locker. I fell to the ground and they started to kick the shit out of me. I had to have stitches. The school kicked me out, not the bullies. 

"Years later, I went to a coffee shop in Petaluma, and I ran into one of the girls who'd kicked me, and she said, 'Winona, Winona, can I have your autograph?' and I said, 'Do you remember me? I went to Kenilworth. Remember how, in seventh grade, you beat up that kid?' and she said, 'Kind of,' and I said, "That was me. Go fuck yourself!'"

Weedman even tracked down Ryder's interviewer for that story, a journalist named Henry Alford. "I loved interviewing Winona because she told this kind of anecdote totally matter-of-factly," Alford told her. "Most of us would stammer or get huffy and overly theatrical for the 'reveal,' but Winona dished it out like yesterday's mac and cheese."

Alford also expressed bewilderment about the quote resurfacing all these years later. "Maybe people feel differently about Winona now that she appears regularly in our living rooms," he mused. "Now she is us. She bleeds. We're more interested in her as a human."

Indeed, because Ryder is human, she's bound to experience bullying's lifelong ramifications, along with any of the rest of us. A recent study showed that children who are bullied are less mentally healthy in their adult years.

"There were some very strong long-term effects on their risk for depression, anxiety, suicidality, a whole host of outcomes that we know just wreak havoc on adult lives," William Copeland, a clinical psychologist at Duke University Medical Center, told LiveScience.

"More and more, I'm coming to the mindset that what happens to kids when they're with other kids, their peers, is as important, or maybe more important, than what happens at home."

At the very least, these traumatic experiences with bullies are all too memorable, as Ryder proves. Perhaps her seventh-grade tormentors became anti-bullying advocates, too.

Cover image via  Andrea Raffin /


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