Patti Stanger, host of "The Millionaire Matchmaker," is making carrot-tops see red.
Stanger, who has often criticized redheads on the Bravo reality show that sets up rich men with comely women, is the target of a new
protest campaign cheekily called "We Are the 2 Percent." "Redhead discrimination is overlooked, laughed at, and swept under the rug," writes campaign instigator Erin Roche. It's an "accepted form of racism."
That's not the only example of dissing those blessed with strawberry blond, auburn or flaming orange tresses: In September, the world's largest sperm bank (Cryos of Denmark) began rejecting redheaded donors, claiming a lack of demand. Television shows including
have aired episodes poking fun at "gingers."
Still, for those who are part of the 2 to 4 percent of the world's population who have red hair, a pattern seems to hold true: When they're kids, they're not always wild about being different. But when they grow up, they wouldn't trade it for the world.
At the Robertson household in
, Minn., redheads make up 100 percent of the population. Dad Tim is auburn, mom Beth strawberry blond, and their four children each sport their own hues, ranging from flaming to subtle. To them, the only unusual thing about red hair is the extra amount of sunscreen they go through.
It can get tiresome when they're all together in public and strangers can't seem to see past the hair, said 11-year-old Katie, "because we'll be at a restaurant and people will say, 'Oh, look, how adorable.'"
"Red hair is something you must live up to," said Marion Roach, author of "The Roots of Desire" (Bloomsbury USA), a book on redheads. "Society expects it. We would never dream of talking about skin color the way we do hair color."
Some redheads work it to their advantage. Ric Fohrman, a 51-year-old Plymouth, Minn., auto broker whose orange locks are receding, says it has made his life more interesting.
"You get teased as a kid, but after that it's a big plus," Fohrman says, "because people remember you more readily."
Then again, he adds, "you can never be anonymous, even when you want to."
While teasing can be common, the biggest cross most American redheads have to bear is not having a day go by without someone mentioning the color of their hair.
"It irritated me at age 8, but not at 50," Fohrman said. "What cracks me up the most is when they ask if it's my natural color. But it's always been such a part of my identity, and it's falling out. What now?"
Redheads of renown
Redheads have harnessed their ginger power to make it big in many walks of life. A few examples:
: "Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead," she said.
Prince Harry: The Brits often pick on gingers — except for royalty's charming, most eligible bachelor.
Vincent van Gogh: The painter rocked a red beard as intense as his imagination.
: Aka "The Flying Tomato," Olympic snowboard champ. Never was the reason for a nickname so gloriously obvious.
: The singer/pianist proves that redheads aren't just fiery, they can be soulful too.
Venus by Botticelli: Botticelli boldly made his love goddess a redhead at a time when many considered it taboo.