X Factor's Joe McElderry driven to success by school bullies
He was relentlessly taunted over his sexuality - dubbed "mummy's boy" and "gay boy".
Joe, 18, had a string of girlfriends, but that did not stop his tormentors.
Carly Dilbert, 19, who went out with Joe for two years, said: "He hated it. It really upset him.
"He was adamant he wasn't gay. But they kept on saying it. It was just kids being cruel, but it was hurtful to Joe.
"He had tons of female friends. He wasn't into sport or anything like that - and he got bullied because of it. The boys would call him names like 'mummy's boy' or 'gay boy' - and laugh at him for hanging around with us girls.
"All the girls liked Joe more than other boys so maybe it was jealousy.
"It started when he was about 13 and carried on until he was 15 or 16. Eventually it died down and, by the end of school, everyone loved Joe.
"He won the bullies round with his sense of humour and his funny nature."
Read here everything Carly Dilbert, his ex-girlfriend, says about him.