As a teen in England, Kate Winslet says: “I was shy. I was vulnerable.”
She was also never mistaken for Nicole Richie.
Slight overweight, Winlet was referred to as “blubber” by other kids, she tells Parade in its upcoming issue. “Other girls teased me terribly. I was bullied, I would just put my head down and get on with it. This was my means of survival.”
Things didn’t get easier for the actress. At 15, before she fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio on screen, Winslet dealt with serious feelings for an older man in real life: 28-year-old television actor and writer Stephen Tredre.
“Stephen made me feel secure and embraced,” says the Little Children actress, 31, who now lives in Manhattan with her husband, director Sam Mendes, 41, and kids Mia, 6, and Joe, 2.
By 16, Winslet had dropped out of high school and was working in a deli when she landed her first film role: the lead in 1994’s Peter Jackson-directed Heavenly Creatures.
But shortly before Winslet began filming 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, Tredre was diagnosed with bone cancer.
“There was no point to his suffering. No rhyme or reason to it,” she says. “When Stephen had gotten better and his cancer was in remission, we broke up. I don’t know why. I was so young, when I look back on it. Only 19. How could I have left a person who was so unwell? I thought Stephen was going to be all right.”
After their split, “He got ill again. Stephen and I talked every day. This was not somebody I’d turn my back on.”
Tredre died in 1997, the week Titanic opened. Winslet missed the movie’s Los Angeles premiere to be at his funeral.
“Looking back,” she says, “I see what I was dealing with when Titanic came out. I had a lot of pain, and I was confused about who I was.”
Now, she’s one of the best actresses alive. Her role with Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind earned Winslet an Oscar nomination.