Out of all the villains in JK Rowling’s Wizarding World, Dolores Umbridge is undoubtedly one of the worst of them. Apart from being completely evil, she’s also incredibly annoying—to both her fellow characters and viewers alike. Worst of all? She is apparently based on real person.
On the Pottermore website, Rowling—being as vague as possible—once wrote about how Umbridge was inspired by "a teacher or instructor whom I disliked intensely on sight." And the instant animosity seemed to be mutual. According to Rowling:
"The woman in question returned my antipathy with interest. Why we took against each other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I honestly cannot say. What sticks in my mind is her pronounced taste for twee accessories. I particularly recall a tiny little plastic bow slide, pale lemon in color that she wore in her short curly hair. I used to stare at that little slide, which would have been appropriate to a girl of three, as though it was some kind of repellant physical growth. She was quite a stocky woman, and not in the first flush of youth, and her tendency to wear frills where (I felt) frills had no business to be, and to carry undersized handbags, again as though they had been borrowed from a child’s dressing-up box, jarred, I felt, with a personality that I found the reverse of sweet, innocent and ingenuous."
The author went on to clarify that while the teacher in question definitely informed the character, Umbridge was a "grossly exaggerated" version of her. So just who was the real-life Dolores Umbridge?
Rowling was very careful not to let any details slip, admitting that she’s “wary when talking about these kinds of sources of inspiration, because it is infuriating to hear yourself misinterpreted in ways that can cause other people a great deal of hurt.” But given the impact that Umbridge's character had on the Harry Potter universe, some fans might think it would be kind of an honor to be the unlikeable teacher who inspired the unlikeable professor.