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'The Voice' star tells of teenage bullying that scarred her for life

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'The Voice of Ireland' quarter-finalist Kiera Byrne says that school bullying shattered her confidence but that music helped her rebuild her self-esteem

'The Voice of Ireland' quarter-finalist Kiera Byrne says that school bullying shattered her confidence but that music helped her rebuild her self-esteem

Kiera Byrne suffered at the hands of bullies during her teenage years

Kiera Byrne suffered at the hands of bullies during her teenage years

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'The Voice of Ireland' quarter-finalist Kiera Byrne says that school bullying shattered her confidence but that music helped her rebuild her self-esteem

Tipped to win The Voice of Ireland, Kiera Byrne is marked out as a star -- but off stage, a lifetime of bullying has haunted the singer.

The Wexford girl said she was remorselessly picked on and taunted for her talent.

"I have sang my whole life but girls didn't seem to like me. It was when I started putting on weight that I saw the effects of how bad bullying can be," said the 22-year-old.

After being chosen for RTE's nationwide talent search Star Stream in 2002, the musical youngster first found the limelight at 13.

"I was in first year at the time and cameras were at my school recording for the show -- but I was jeered and called a 'crow' and some girls would bash into me, pass notes to each other and write remarks on desks," she said.

As a result, Kiera started comfort eating and her weight ballooned to 16 stone.

"I wasn't able to look in any mirrors because I felt so disgusting. I purposely put on weight to be hidden. I didn't feel good enough and I did it to protect myself," she said.

"My weight was a cover for me. I would cry hysterically in the toilets as I didn't know these girls and they didn't know me," the singer confided.

"I also developed obsessive compulsive disorder and was constantly washing my hands. I was in the doctor's many times a week as every part of my body ached.

"My stomach felt physically sick -- the doctor told me there was nothing wrong with me but I was in agony," Kiera said.

The bullying was picked up on by school authorities when a teacher caught one of the girls trying to hit Kiera.

By the time the pretty brunette entered transition year the 'mean girls' had left the school.

"I remember breathing a sigh of relief knowing they were gone. I went home crying in disbelief."

But Kiera's confidence was shattered and her self-esteem was in tatters. Music was her saviour.

"I didn't want to be here anymore. I thought the world would be a better place if I wasn't here but my music saved me," she said.

"When it got too dark for me or I felt like it was the end of the road, I would find solace in a song.

"I am still completely scarred from it," said Kiera, who is down to the final 12 of the competition and will compete in the quarter finals of The Voice tonight.

It was only after losing five stone last year that Kiera plucked up the courage to enter The Voice of Ireland.

With dreams of becoming an international singer, the issue of bullying has resonated again on web pages connected to the show.

"Some days I have a good cry as a result of certain comments online with direct hatred messages towards me for no reason.

"I'm confident when it comes to the stage but behind that facade I'm not," Kiera added.

Sunday Independent