Bullying has become an epidemic in our society today, from school shootings to mental torture the issue has gotten out of hand. According to the American SPCC, 160,000 kids per day skip school for fear of being bullied all because they are perceived as different from their peers. The remnants of bullying can either cripple us over time or cause us to gain control of our power soaring us to great heights as is the case with 19-year-old award winning Los Angeles based actress Karlisha Hurley from Australia. I recently had the honor of speaking with Karlisha about her traumatic bullying experience and how she chose to make great strides in bringing healing to the world and this is what Karlisha wanted readers to know.
Me: What was life like growing up as a child in Australia? What were the dynamics in the home?
Karlisha: I grew up in a home with my older sister where our parents expressed the best love they knew how. I had a passion for film, which is how I got into acting. I would watch films with my friend and we would go outside and act out the characters of the movie.
Me: Were there any dynamics going on in the household that made you feel lack of love or self worth?
Karlisha: It was less the household and more of the school environment, which shaded my world. Bullying started at a young age and heavily affected me at the age of 11. It was less physical and more emotional; manipulative behavior that made me feel as low as I could possibly feel. My attackers would say things like, “You are worthless, you are nothing, you are never going to become anything, nobody likes you, and you don’t have any friends.”
Me: Why do you think they were saying these things to you? Was it the way you dressed or looked? Why you?
Karlisha: I really believe that school is horrible for anyone who is the least bit different. It was the way I behaved, I had to grow up very fast in my house, my Mom became a single parent when I was around eight years old and she worked very hard to keep a roof over our head, so that put a lot on my sister and I, we had to help out a lot and this gave me more of an adult mindset. I wasn’t into the gossip, clicks, or fashion. So I was picked out because of that, bullies belittled me because I wouldn’t act like them. I was weird to most people, I was a creative loner who said what was on my mind and I thought that was acceptable, but clearly it wasn’t. I enjoyed being alone in my own space and didn’t feel the need to be a part of someone’s click or fit in their box of how they thought I should be.
Me: So you were 11 years old and bullied, I want you to take me back to that place and describe to me how you were feeling and share with me what was going through your mind.
Karlisha: The bullying mainly took place at lunchtime. I was anxious because nobody would talk to me in a supportive way. I would ask myself, “How come nobody likes me? What is wrong with me? This must be caused by something I am doing wrong. How do I fit in with these people?” I felt extremely lonely! It affected how I spoke to my parents and other people. I was very angry and snappy; I stayed in my room alone most of the time. I didn’t show my parents that I appreciated them or loved them while all of this was going on. I didn’t love myself, so loving other people was the last thing on my mind. I felt depressed and I had suicidal thoughts. I wanted to create harm to myself and sometimes I wanted to die.
Me: How did the bullying escalate from the age of eleven?
Karlisha: It got to a point where I refused to go to school. I was physically ill and throwing up all of the time. I had severe PTSD. I was sick for an entire month and couldn’t get out of bed. The severe stress that bullying caused completely wore down my immune system. I also had terrible social anxiety.
Me: Was your Mom aware of the bullying at this point?
Karlisha: I never told her about the bullying until the age of 17 but she did suspect something was going on at school.
Me: How many years did the harsh bullying go on for?
Karlisha: Bullying started at the beginning of elementary school and escalated until 10th grade. I shifted at the age of 16 and found self-love and this helped but the social anxiety was intense until I graduated. Just the knowing that the end was in sight is what seriously got me through.
Me: How was your relationship with your Father?
Karlisha: My Dad had a gambling addiction and he showed me lack of love. I remember one time he left me in the car alone for hours while he went off and gambled, it was a hot day, and I felt abandoned and scared. This was when I was around 11 years old when all of the intense bullying was going on so you can imagine my level of anxiety and lack of self worth. I had a lot of fear, and wondered when my Dad was coming back, why this was happening to me, why I wasn’t good enough, and why I couldn’t measure up to anybody’s desires; why can’t someone just love me for who I am.
Me: Where has all of this left you today? How is your connection with others?
Karlisha: I needed people to like me back then and although that’s not as strong of a need today I think deep down inside there is still a part of me that’s looking for it, approval and acceptance. I am much more confident today.
Me: What created the shift from you having severe social anxiety and not wanting to go out in public to now becoming an award-winning actress living in Los Angeles?
Karlisha: Finally realizing graduation was coming up and I was leaving school is what helped to make the shift; thinking about all of the possibilities of where I could live and what I could do with my life gave me hope. I changed my perspective and gained back my power. I became excited about my future and I knew I wanted to be an actress. Moving to Los Angeles and becoming an actress fed my passion and gave me inner joy and a sense of belonging, I am surrounded by people that are similar to me, that have the same passion and aspirations, I feel like I now fit in. I moved to L.A. when I was 17 and I already had a manger that introduced me to a lot of people and the entertainment industry. I met like-minded people through acting classes. I plugged into inspirational videos on YouTube and I meditate on the positive messages daily. I love yoga, it helps to release my stress and better understand myself and I love to journal and find ways to learn from my experiences in life.
Me: Where has acting taken you over the past 2 years?
Karlisha: Everywhere, it’s amazing the progress I have made. Mentally I feel like I’m a completely different person, I feel more myself and I’m figuring out who I am. I played the lead role in the feature film Wrapped, was in the Lifetime film ‘Nightmare Tenant’, I have a starring role in the series ‘How to Identify a Serial Killer’ and I’m co-host of the series #Me4TV, a next-generation talk show. I have won Best Actor Under 18 at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Hollywood Moving Picture Film Festival, and Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Accolade Global Film Competition – all for my role in a film about child suicide called ‘Karlisha and Morgan’ which has also won many other international awards. I have gained recognition for my co-lead role in the international award-winning short film ‘Hello Tom Sullivan’ and co-hosted at Australia’s largest live national talent competition ‘Fast Track’ and trained and performed on stage in musical theatre, dance, singing and acrobatics as well as performed live at Second City in Los Angeles. I have experience working on film sets as a production assistant on the feature film The Lucifer Killings and the TV pilot Sunshine Backpackers; I’ve co-wrote and starred in ‘Bet the Demon Wins’, was the Producer of the short film, ‘The Birthday Party’ and won a national schools 3in6 Film Award for making a short film.
Me: I am very proud of you Karlisha for your transformation and I know you are passionate about wanting to make a difference in the world in regards to bullying why and what would you like to see happen? What encouraging closing remarks would you like to leave your readers with?
Karlisha: I know how hard it is to stick out, be bullied and feel lonely at a very young age. I am an advocate for mental health and I’m starting a podcast that focuses on what it is like mentally and physically to be bullied at a young age and I’ll be supplying ways to navigate through it all. I hope to create a sense of awareness and help others work through the negatives as well as identify and embrace the positives. I apply my experience in acting and I play in active rolls for film and TV that deal with mental health issues. I am very passionate about bringing healing to others and I want anyone who has gone through bullying issues that may be reading this to know that by being your authentic self it helps to create a space for others to open up and heal; your vulnerability is a gift to others. Embrace who you are because I promise it’s worth it! Be the best version you can of yourself and love yourself because you are special!
Karlisha is a great advocate for the youth and bullying. Personally, as a mother with a teenage son who has experienced over 5 years of intense bullying I am honored that Karlisha has become a light and a voice for those around the world trying to find their own. If you wish to connect with Karlisha you can do so via Twitter or Instagram and you can follow the success of the SHEROS on Facebook by clicking here.
The #SHEROproject will include stories of SHEROS from around the world throughout the next 11 months. In an effort to support our thriving SHEROS, there is a panel that will be selecting the most inspirational story for the 2019 SHERO of the year award, which will be announced on 12/1/2019.
The SHERO of the year award winner will receive a 4-day/3-night retreat at 1440 Multiversity. An opportunity to explore their potential in an environment like no other; get away for rejuvenating downtime and immersion learning on their state-of-the-art campus in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, CA and experience the perfect blend of learning, vacation, and space for reflection.
1440 Multiversity is a place to experience time differently—exploring what matters, while surrounding yourself with fresh air, delicious food, many ways to unwind, and opportunities to connect with yourself and others. SHERO, during your stay, you can look forward to daily 1440 specialty classes such as yoga, meditation, qi gong and Pilates. Or enjoy hiking in the 75 acres of redwood forest surrounding the campus and finish off your day with a soak in their signature infinity tub.
The creation of 1440 Multiversity stemmed from a desire to establish a beautiful and nurturing physical location where people of all walks of life could come together in community—to explore, learn, reflect, connect, and reenergize.
Also, each SHERO featured will receive a relaxing mix of Nectar Bath Treats’ most popular bath and body treats. Nectar Bath Treats is a cruelty free bath & body company that creates bakery inspired treats for deliciously smooth skin. Their delightful handmade treats range from adorable cupcake soaps and milkshake inspired coconut milk bath soaks to stress blasting bath bombs, all natural sugar body scrubs, ice cream shaped bubble bath scoops and so much more. If you need to relax after a long day or give yourself smoother more kissable skin, Nectar Bath Treats has you covered head to toe. Each treat is handmade with love by their team of professional soap artisans and skin care specialists for skin so soft and smooth you’ll swear you just left a luxury spa treatment.
Each featured SHERO will also receive a Rustic Cuff representing Joy & Courage. Celebrities such as Miranda Lambert, Giuliana Rancic, Kristin Chenoweth and Gayle King to name a few, wear founder Jill Donovan’s designs. Her bracelets have been featured on a multitude of national talk shows and in magazines including Elle, People, In Style, etc. For Jill it’s all about the inspired connection that is made between two people.
The SHEROs will also receive a candle by Sugarboo and Co…Dealers in Whimsy, reminding them that they are a light in the world. Sugarboo believes in putting good out into the world whenever possible. Their hope is that each Sugarboo piece sent out into the world will add a little good! Rebecca Puig’s (artist and owner) inspirations are family, nature, animals, old things, children’s art and folk art. She loves juxtaposing old and new, light and dark, serious subject matter with fluff and anything with a message! Sugarboo’s Motto is “Put Good Things into the World”!
Each featured SHERO will receive a private invitation to The B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. Foundation annual Gala in Las Vegas 2/8/2020 where they will be interviewed on the red carpet. B.E. A S.H.E.R.O. foundation’s mission is to provide resources needed to support, sustain and empower young girls and women under the age of 25 who have been abused, abandoned, and exploited. We intend to accomplish this mission by bringing other agencies with similar missions together and being a resource center for these organizations.