He got bullied so badly he moved to Australia. He killed himself by cramming a pencil into and up his nose. He only got the job because he was terminally ill and his dying wish was to be in a Frosties advert.
Everybody had their own theory about the Frosties kid, the urban myth that spread across British playgrounds a decade ago. So much so that history has consigned the pre-teen boy with spiky blond hair and a grating nasal voice to schoolyard legend, alongside the "brown noise" and "Reading Festival poo girl". But there's more to his story.
The kid in the Frosties advert was a 14-year-old named Sven Ruygrok from South Africa. He didn't die, and after emerging intact from the aftermath of the commercial and pursuing a career as a gymnast, he is now an actor, finding relative fame in his home country. In a remarkable twist of fate, Sven now runs his own anti-bullying workshops.
Now aged 24, in his first time opening up about the Frosties advert, I spoke to Sven about cereal, looking past the online abuse and what it's like to be part of the biggest playground conspiracy of all time.
The infamous advert
VICE: Hey Sven, let's go back to the beginning. What do you remember about being in the advert?
Sven Ruygrok: Unfortunately the truth is a lot less exciting than some of the urban legends. I was 14 years old and auditioned for the advert with loads of other boys. I remember the casting being really weird. They asked me to imagine all sorts of things and be all sorts of things, like pretending to be a dragon, a ballerina and acting like an imaginary crate was exploding in front of me.
So that annoying voice in the video – I'm assuming that wasn't you?
Yeah, that's not my voice at all. They recorded the jingle months before we shot the commercial and I just had to learn the words so I could mime along.
Let's talk about the rumours. How did they affect you?
Not much at the time, to be honest – I was 14. I wanted to be outside and play. I was more concerned about pimples and hormones ruining my life than a commercial, but I do vividly remember my parents being affected by it. I mean, what would you do as a parent if your child's name was being thrown around the internet like a rag doll under a truck by people who have never met them?
What was the worst rumour you heard about yourself?
I think the ones about the manner in which I died were quite disturbing. People said I stuck two pencils up my nose and slammed my head on the desk, nose-first. Others said I got the job because my mother was dying of cancer and it was her last dying wish to have her child in a Frosties commercial. Also, there's a great video on YouTube of me getting hit by a train – twice, and then just for safety I'm then blown up with a bomb.
This is all online abuse, but did it go any further?
Absolutely. We had a reporter track me down and jump our gate to get an interview. That was just over and above the general harsh comments and cyber bullying online.
Just to set the record straight, you are very much still alive. What do you want people to know about you?
It's not a rags to riches story. Like many young kids I went to a casting, booked it, shot it and used the money to fund my trip overseas for one of my passions – gymnastics. Simple, lame and far less cool than the urban legends.
And now you run anti-bullying workshops. How did you get into that?
I started out giving talks to underprivileged kids about the value of life. Kids are so dependent on external things to validate them and to tell them they are good enough, constantly telling themselves, 'If I get the next best thing, then I'll be happy.' But it's short-lived – a sugar rush with a devastating crash. And we're seeing the effects of it today with anxiety issues, body issues and suicide. So this is where my life experience comes into play and I share with them my story and remind them to focus on bigger things. Because when we all die, what they will remember is the qualities that you possessed and the kind of person that you were.
If you could give any advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say?
Find your identity. An identity that is not ever-changing. One that doesn't depend on how you're feeling, what group of friends you are with, how much money you have or what you look like. You will never know what you are, and you will forever be trying to please people by constantly chasing things.
I have to ask: do you even eat Frosties any more?
Nope, never did. Not because I have anything against the brand due to the commercial, but because they are just not my cup of tea.
People outside of South Africa might not be familiar with your acting career, but that's what you're known for over there. What can you tell me about it?
I've worked with some really amazing people, like John Cleese in the Spud trilogy, Orlando Bloom in Zulu and Matthew Lewis in Blue Stone 42. I've been lucky enough to play many different characters, from a jock to a nerd, a soldier, a cheerleader and everything in between. I just finished up a feature film called The Empty Man and I'm hopping onto a TV series pilot called Of the Dragon.
And do you think being in that infamous Frosties advert helped or hindered your career?
If anything, it gave me life experience and taught me humility. You never just wake up and become the top dog in your field. There are always people along the way to help you, guide you and cheer you on. If I listened to all those rumours about myself, I would never be in an industry where I am constantly criticised.
How do you look back at it 10 years on?
I wouldn't change a single thing. I'm lying – perhaps that annoying jingle.
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