Ruby Rose Before The Fame

Before landing her breakthrough role on Orange Is the New Black, Ruby Rose was the kind of under-the-radar celebrity who was able to skip around Los Angeles without so much as a small dating rumor in the American tabloids — the veritable benchmark of Hollywood fame. If anything, the rumors about Rose were the ones she started herself, like when she claimed to have slept with Demi Lovato in a 2013 Instagram comment. This served as a stark contrast to the press in her home country of Australia, where she had already cultivated a high-profile career as a TV presenter, but she was willing to risk it all to make it stateside.

Rose had an unconventional — and difficult — path to fame. Trying to fit into Hollywood's narrow image of an actress didn't work for her, and the star only found success in Tinseltown after she burned down the stereotypes and shined a spotlight on her true self. This is what Ruby Rose was like before the fame.

Ruby Rose was raised by a single mom

Ruby Rose had unconventional upbringing with her single mother. In an essay for The Sydney Morning Herald, she described herself as "a bit of gypsy kid" who moved a lot before settling down in Melbourne with her grandmother. 

However, the actress started her life on a farm in Victoria. The Sun reports that her father was abusive, and in her Sydney Morning Herald essay, Rose detailed how she fled with her mother at the age of one. Her mom hawked a stolen TV to pay for their flights, and the pair moved in with her great aunt in Hobart. She also lived in Churchill, Gippsland, and Surfers Paradise before moving to Australia's garden city.

"Being brought up by a single mum was hard — we were poor, we had no money and couch-surfed a lot," Rose wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald. "Despite this, I wouldn't change a thing. It was hard but it served me well later in life." Rose ended up forming a tight bond with her mother, but didn't see her father through much of her childhood until a period of adolescent "self-discovery" when she decided that she wanted to understand her roots. "I was a bit rebellious and needed to do that exploring," Rose wrote, but noted that the feeling was short-lived. The actress realized that even if she felt like she "needed an opposite-sex role model," her mother already served both roles. Plus, she had other male family members.

Ruby Rose spent her childhood saving for gender-affirming surgery

Ruby Rose has long been open about her gender fluidity, and it's something she's known about since she was a little kid. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, the actress revealed that when she was about five or six years old, she started binding her breasts with ACE bandages, a practice she reveals is "really, really bad for you." Though a five-year-old has nothing to bind, Rose believed it would prevent her breasts from growing, saying, "I used to pray to God that I wouldn't get breasts."

That was around the time Rose started saving up for gender-affirming surgery after seeing a daytime documentary about it. "I had this jar that I would collect dollars, in fact it was probably cents, so I had like 19 cents to go towards this surgery that I didn't really know a lot about," she later told i-D. Though she continued saving for years, Rose ultimately decided that she didn't want to transition when she was a teenager, and instead just "wanted to be more comfortable in [her] own skin." Today, Rose is thankful she didn't go through with the surgery, because, as she told The EDIT (via People), she wants "to have babies someday." 

As Rose explained her gender identity to Elle, "I'm not a guy; I don't really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I'm somewhere in the middle, which — in my perfect imagination — is like having the best of both sexes."

Ruby Rose came out when she was 12 years old

Ruby Rose is an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate, and she's had years of practice. Her own coming out story happened when she was a pre-teen. In a 2017 interview with Today, the actress revealed that she first came out to her mom when she was 12 years old. Her mom's response was a cool and collected, "I know." Apparently, she'd known since her daughter was six, but that didn't make it any less anxiety-inducing for Rose, because she had virtually no exposure to gay culture growing up.

"I was just worried because ... I didn't know it was a thing," Rose revealed. "I knew how I felt, I knew what I kind of identified as, but the words gay or lesbian, I didn't know anyone else that was gay or lesbian, so I didn't really know how to word it. I was just like, 'I think I should let you know that when I eventually get a boyfriend, they'll be a girl.'"

According to her essay in The Sydney Morning Herald, the model-actress entered her first lesbian relationship when she was 17 years old, which shocked her then-girlfriend's parents. "I used to dote on her all the time," Rose wrote. "I used to bring flowers to school, I would write her poems. Her parents would chase me out of their house. It was traumatic at the time."

Extreme high school bullying sent Ruby Rose to the hospital

Ruby Rose had a tough go at University High in Melbourne. The star was a victim of extreme bullying, which she opened up about at the 2009 Australian Subscription Television and Radio Awards. During her acceptance speech for the favorite female personality award (via The Daily Telegraph), she revealed that she was picked on by "five girls and one boy" who would follow her around after class, "just yelling abuse." Rose said, "They were determined to break me. Sometimes they would just come up and punch me in the head."

Rose hid the full extent of the bullying from her mother, but the truth came out when she was hospitalized at the age of 16. The star explained that on that particular day, the whole school knew she was "going to be beaten up." Her bullies confronted her at the school's cafe in front of a crowd of about 50 students, and Rose did her best to ignore the insults until one girl picked up a metal chair and lobbed it at her skull. "I didn't see it coming," Rose said. "She was just smashing it against the back of my head. My mates tried to stop her but she kept going until management ran over and said 'Enough!' Security arrived and the police. It was a big deal. My head was bleeding. I had to go to hospital."

The six students were suspended for three weeks, and Rose didn't press charges.

Ruby Rose's lifelong struggle with mental health began before the fame

Throughout Ruby Rose's tough upbringing, she struggled with mental illness. According to The Daily Telegraph, she sunk into a deep depression after years of abuse at the hands of her high school bullies, but it didn't start there. The Sun reports that she endured childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a family member and had a "turbulent" home life. This gave Rose suicidal thoughts at an age when she, in her own words, "shouldn't have known what suicide was."

In an October 2019 Instagram post, Rose revealed that this led to suicide attempts from the age of 12, hospitalizations, and an incorrect bipolar diagnosis. She was diagnosed with depression at age 13, major depressive disorder at age 16, and dissociative amnesia at age 18. The latter diagnosis was when her life started to change as she began learning about blocked-out trauma.

"I found out I went from a smiling laughing child to a quiet mute who sat alone and stared off to the distance during recess after one of many traumatic events that I didn't remember," Rose wrote. "One that my mum had to tell me about but hadn't for so many years because the doctors at the time said I was too young to process what had happened." She also revealed that, if there's any silver lining to her strife, it's that her mental health struggles showed her "just how strong [she is]."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Ruby Rose's MTV audition was a class assignment

Ruby Rose became a household name in Australia when she landed a gig as an MTV VJ during their national search, but this is something that was never supposed to happen. According to a profile in Self, a 20-year-old Rose was still an acting student when she attended the audition as part of a class assignment in 2007. She didn't even watch MTV because she didn't have cable.

According to the Australian Associated Press, Rose's audition was far from the standard try-out. During the final round, the model had to down 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes with Jackass' own Bam Margera — the literal face of MTV debauchery — and kiss strangers in the streets. The former challenge led her to vomiting on national television, but she did end up scoring the gig, beating out 2,000 hopefuls and complicating her studies.

"I had to go to acting school and say, 'OK, this happened and then that happened, and then I got the job so now what do I do?'" she told Self. Rose took the gig.

Ruby Rose kicked off her MTV fame with an alleged love triangle

Before Ruby Rose found fame in America, the star flirted with some tabloid gossip in her home country. According to The Daily Telegraph, she kicked off her MTV fame with a scandalous alleged love triangle. Per the paper's report, the model started dating a small-time model named Lyndsey Anne McMillan in 2009. At the time, McMillan had reportedly been dating former Australia's Next Top Model contestant Lola Van Vorst for months.

The love triangle reportedly "converged" at the Bonds Spring/Summer 2009 Fashion Launch, when McMillan told The Daily Telegraph that she was dating the event's DJ. The DJ that night was Rose — and thus a lesbian scandal was born. Apparently, Van Vorst and McMillan's breakup was "intense," as was Rose's eventual breakup with McMillan.

According to a separate report from The Daily Telegraph, McMillan and Rose reportedly dodged engagement rumors before calling it quits over a reality TV show (not on, just over). McMillan wanted to do a series like The Hills. Rose allegedly wanted nothing to do with it, which checks out considering the star has admitted to turning down reality TV roles in the past. McMillan allegedly shot the pilot behind Rose's back, and Rose was out of there.

Mercury poisoning was a wake-up call for Ruby Rose

Ruby Rose struggled to find balance during her early years of Australian fame, when she was a fresh-faced MTV VJ with the kind of star power that garnered hate mail for cropping her hair, according to Self. Though she was a virtual nobody in the United States, she definitely hit the party circuit in Australia enough for the tabloids to notice. Like most of the young, hard-partying celebs that came before her, Rose's heavy drinking, live-fast lifestyle, and pressures of fame eventually started to take their toll. 

"I was drinking, never sleeping enough, eating really terrible food, I was stressed out," Rose told Self. The star got a wake-up call when she contracted mercury poisoning and SIBO, a bacterial infection in the small intestine. That's when she quit drinking as a preventative measure against her family's history of alcohol abuse, tightened up her vegetarian diet to strict veganism, and started boxing again. 

"Everything changed when I quit drinking," Rose explained to the outlet. "I got more work opportunities, I felt healthier, my body was better, my brain was better, my relationships were better, and it sort of felt like there were all these miracles."

Ruby Rose was allegedly engaged four times before she hit it big in the US

Before Ruby Rose established herself in the United States, the TV presenter had a very busy — and arguably productive — love life. If we're judging by tabloid reports, the actress was engaged four times before settling down as a single person in Hollywood. If we're judging by Rose's own report, she's been engaged just once. Who's to say?

According to The Daily Telegraph, Rose first tried to tie the knot in 2009 with Lyndsey Anne McMillan, the relationship that sparked her scandalous alleged love triangle. By the time that fizzled out, Rose had already reportedly cozied up to supermodel Catherine McNeil. The following year, reported that the pair confirmed their engagement. They split some months later, but by 2011, The Daily Telegraph was already reporting that Rose was engaged to InStyle writer Lia-Belle King.

This was all before Rose became a household name stateside. Before blowing up with Orange Is the New Black, the actress had one more almost-stop down the aisle with Phoebe Dahl, the granddaughter of Roald Dahl. According to Us Weekly, the pair got engaged after just three months of dating and ended up being together for about two years before calling it quits in 2015 as Rose's career ballooned. Rose was so busy after finding success on Netflix, that she initially told People they had put off their wedding plans. Somewhere along the line, they just put off their whole relationship.

Ruby Rose left Australia against the advice of her managers

Ruby Rose didn't leave Australia because she wanted to; she left because she had to for her career. In her home country, she had already enjoyed widespread fame. She was, as they say, booked and busy — but as a TV personality. If Rose wanted to give acting a real shot, she had to go somewhere where she was virtually unknown.

"It was tough to stay in Australia, because everyone kept saying, 'Nobody is going to believe you in this role because they're going to see Ruby Rose the presenter or Ruby Rose the DJ or a personality and they're not going to see you as an actress,'" Rose told Grazia. She admitted to the outlet that her managers throughout the years had advised her against launching a career in the US. It's not that she wouldn't necessarily make it, but why take the chance if you've already got non-stop work where you and your family actually live? "They thought if I went over there, I might just come back with nothing," Rose explained, later adding, "If it didn't work on a work-level in the States, coming back home I wouldn't feel embarrassed. I would just feel grateful that I gave it a shot." 

As we know, it worked out ... but not immediately.

Ruby Rose slept on an air mattress before finding fame in Hollywood

Ruby Rose's success in Hollywood wasn't instant. In fact, after two years in Los Angeles, she had almost nothing to show for it. It took a potentially career-destroying move to break through.

In a July 2019 Instagram post, Rose revealed that she couldn't find a manager or agent after moving stateside. She spent "every last cent" she'd made in her decade of Australian "showbiz," and was "living on a blow up mattress from Target" with six months left on her visa. Though she felt like throwing in the towel and going back home, the star decided to make the short film that she had been too afraid to make because she was worried brands would pull advertising and she'd lose her endorsements. At that point, she had nothing to lose, and that changed everything.

Rose released Break Free — a heart-wrenching tribute to her gender-fluidity — in 2014. According to The Guardian, the video went viral. In the matter of a week or so, it had racked up nearly 5 million views and earned the star hundreds of thousands of new Facebook followers. At the time of this writing, it has more than 52 million views. It was also the catalyst that helped her land her first Hollywood role.

Orange Is the New Black was Ruby Rose's unexpected breakthrough

Once Break Free found its way into the hands of Orange Is the New Black casting director Jennifer Euston, it was game over. Ruby Rose spent two years looking for a Hollywood in, and this was it. Auditions were previously impossible without a U.S. agent or manager. In an interview with Grazia, Rose revealed OITNB was her first, and she didn't just get the gig — her portrayal was so well-received that the writers expanded her role.

"I was only meant to be doing three episodes of Orange and ended up doing thirteen and won a SAG award and had all these great experiences from that and that opened up all the doors," Rose said. She told Self that, at the time, her Australian agent didn't even know about Netflix's popular show, but after her story arc premiered in 2015, she was able to land supporting roles in major blockbusters like Pitch Perfect 3, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and John Wick: Chapter 2

In 2019, the actress made history when she joined the CW's Batwoman series, becoming the first live-action superhero lead who's an out lesbian, according to CNN. Rose has since exited the series and is awaiting the premiere of two film projects, which are in post-production, at the time of this writing.