Tori Spelling opened up this month on Instagram about the years of bullying her children have endured.
Of her daughter Stella, the 90210 star heartbreakingly shared, “Between her last year at her elementary school or the 1st year at her middle school this human has endured enough bullying for a lifetime.” In her post, Spelling admits that she was hesitant to detail her children’s experiences, but said she “can no longer not share.”
Reaching her 1.5 million+ followers, Spelling’s post, which received more than 34,000 likes within 24 hours, reminds us that celebrities can play a major role in the fight against bullying.
We often put celebrities on a pedestal and forget that behind the star power, magazine covers and millions of social media followers, they’re real people that share many of the same experiences we all go through. When celebrities open up about their own encounters with bullying, they can tap into their fanbase and mobilize millions to rally against bullying.
Although it’s not easy, as Spelling noted, we can all learn and grow together when we share our own bullying encounters. Here’s what I’ve learned after reading about the experiences of a handful of brave celebrities.
1. Lean into your support groups.
Global music sensation Shawn Mendes shared his bullying story with his 55+ million followers on Instagram, saying that in 9th grade he was teased about a video he posted of himself singing on YouTube. While Mendes admits the teasing made him “feel like a joke,” he didn’t let bullies discourage him from pursuing his undeniable talent for music and leaned into the support of friends and family.
“I had the best friends and parents anyone could ask for,” the singer/songwriter said, “No matter what they would never let me stop doing what I loved to do just because someone else thought it was stupid.”
2. Channel your experience into something positive.
The familiar voice behind Frozen’s loveable snowman Olaf, Josh Gad got candid about being bullied as a child on “Off Camera with Sam Jones.” The actor, who has recently starred in Avenue 5 and Beauty and the Beast, said he was bullied for his weight starting at a very young age. He used his gift for comedy as a positive outlet and tool to respond to bullies.
“I discovered that comedy was a weapon that I was able to employ,” he said. When singled out by bullies, Gad resorted to comedy to deflect negative attention – and has made quite a career out of channeling that talent.
3. Become an advocate.
Musical powerhouse Demi Lovato has been open and vocal throughout her career about her battles with intense bullying. She has used her experiences and her celebrity platform to become an advocate against bullying, from serving as an ambassador for Secret’s “Mean Stinks” anti-bullying campaign earlier in her career to working with PACER’s Teens Against Bullying organization.
If you’ve been bullied you can help others overcome the same experience by getting involved in an anti-bullying organization or campaign. From #HatNotHate, a craftivist anti-bullying campaign that collects handmade blue hats to share with schools, to It Gets Better, an organization that invites everyone to pledge their support for a more inclusive world for LGBTQ youth, there’s no shortage of opportunities to stand up to bullying.
4. Continue to learn and grow from your experiences.
If you’ve ever been bullied, chances are you still remember the painful encounter vividly. Although these may seem like bad memories, they can actually be quite empowering when you think of bullying as something you’ve been able to overcome and learn and grow from.
HGTV’s Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines has said she was bullied growing up for her mixed race background. Now a successful business owner and mother of five, she draws on her experiences to inform and empower her children. “I always tell my kids to look for that kid on the playground who’s not playing with anybody, to go reach out, ask them their name…to look for the kid in the lunchroom who isn’t sitting by anybody, be their friend,” she told The Today Show.
The endless accounts of celebrities proves that no one is immune to bullying. More encouraging, however, are the inspiring stories and insights shared by celebrities who have fought back against bullying to pursue their passions, stand up for change and inspire others. You don’t have to be a celebrity, though, to motivate and mobilize those around you to be kinder and rally together against bullying. With courage, anyone can channel their negative bullying experiences into positive impact.