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The Wright Perspective℠

Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

Bullying: Celebs Speak Out

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Khloe Kardashian: "I've always been called the ugly sister." and even within her family she was referred to as "the milkman's daughter" because she looked different than her siblings. Not only was she picked on by classmates, but even some of her teachers were bullies. One teacher once told her, "I didn't know you were a Kardashian sister - they're so pretty."

Michelle Trachtenberg: "I was always the focus of everyone's bullying." "I want to be able to tell kids that you can succeed no matter who you are or where you are from." Her success from an early age was a breeding ground of jealosy. Not all of her attacks were just verbal, one girl pushed her down a flight of stairs and broke her ribs. Her teachers wouldn't allow her to go see the school nurse because they thought she was just "over-reacting." She had to always wear stockings to cover up all of the bangs and bruises caused by the bullying. Ling: "How has your difficult childhood made you into a different person?" Michelle: "I do believe it has made me stronger as a person. If I hadn't experienced that, I wouldn't be able to sit here with you and help kids in the future."

Mike Tyson: "I didn't want to go to school because they were bullying me." What? One of the greatest fighters in the world was bullied? As a kid growing up in Brooklyn he was picked on constantly. "I was fat, overweight, had acne, had glasses and I have a lisp. I wasn't the most coolest guy to hang out with at times. They kicked the shit out of me... Whatever they wanted to do - they'd do it. They'd throw shit, they'll throw piss on you, and beat your fucking ass". That is how he got into flying birds [he owns lots of pigeons]. Instead of going to school, he was able to escape the world and fly birds from his roof top. One bully took hold of one of his birds and ripped its head off. That incident led to his very first fight. He was scared of the bully, but his anger overuled his fear. He won that fight. After beating up the bully he received lots of attention. Because of the respect he gained, he went on to become a world-class champion fighter.

Jillian Michaels: "I wasn't the most active child and so I subsequently became a chubby child. And that didn't become so much of an issue until junior high. It started out as name-calling, and people talking behind your back, you being the uncool kid to hang out with so nobody wants to be seen with you. I had one little friend, my 'loser' friend and we were sitting by ourselves under a tree having lunch. All of the kids surrounded us and they just starting throwing things at us and calling us names." When she went home and told her mother what had happened, her mother pulled her out of school. When she eventually attended public school, she was still considered a loser and again was bullied at school. At the time, she didn't realize she was a lesbian and thought it was crazy for them to be calling her a dyke. "I had no self-worth. I had no self-esteem and I just kind of became a recluse. I didn't want to confront or deal with anything." At age 13, she was sitting in her bedroom with her dog and to get her parent's attention, she began cutting herself. "I think I just wanted people to know that I'm in some real trouble here." Her mother immediately got her into therapy and she started studying martial arts and that is what really turned things around for her. "I didn't think of it as fitness - I thought of it as 'I'm gonna learn how to kick someone's ass because I'm getting MY ass kicked every day at school. It gave me a place to take out my aggression and my frustration and my hurt." There are so many MMA fighters who tell a similar story saying that martial arts got them off the streets, kept them out of trouble, and gave them the confidence in their own abilities. Jillian says, "I was still a loner - but I was not a loser" Because of the name calling, she admits that she still has insecurities about her sexuality. "I've accepted who I am and I've 'owned it' but it still is not easy." Jillian and her partner as now new moms with a little boy and girl, so Ling asks, "If either of your children were to grow up and be bullied. how do you think you would help them through that situation?" Jillian: "Do want to hear the right answer - or the answer I'm going to give you? I feel like I would go into that school and tear the principal to pieces, although that is clearly not the answer. I would first talk to her, and try to help her understand that it's not about her - it's about their insecurities and their issues. Subsequently I would teach her how to carry herself with respect because when I carried myself with respect and set boundaries, no one bothered me ever again." Ling: "What would you say to that young girl or boy who feels that he or she doesn't have anyone?" Jillian: "This is a matter of time in your life that is going to build your empathy tremendously, your wisdom, your compassion, your depth. It will probably drive you to excel in the area of your life that you might end up professionally." I loved it when she said that "Success is the best revenge." Next Ling asks her what she would say to the bullies, the friends, teachers, and others who may be standing by not doing anything about it. Jillian: "Help somebody. Use your voice. Speak out. Stand up for somebody. Don't be a diplomat. You can save someone's life. You could change someone's life. What is more meaningful or more rewarding than that? So put your fear aside and take a stand."

Lance Bass: "As a kid, I was definitely considered a bully." Lance was member of the boy band N'SYNC and grew up in Clinton, Mississippi. In 2006, Lance came out of the closet and admitted he was gay, but prior to that he was desperate to keep his sexuality a secret. He knew from an early age that he was gay when he had a crush on another boy in kindergarten. He knew he was gay, but he also had been told that it was 'wrong' to be gay and he knew that it would cause him trouble. He had no one to confide in. His friends, family, and even his parents wouldn't understand. Growing up, one of his best friends was gay. He saw how people made fun of his friend and how people talked about him behind his back. That pushed Lance even deeper in 'the closet' because he didn't want people to say those things about him. He admits turning into a bully. Although he wasn't a physical bully (beating up someone), he would call other kids names and would laugh whenever his classmates would pick on somebody. Lance explains, "I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be cool and I didn't want to be an outsider. I was just thinking about what was going to make me cool enough to survive my life here." Then Lance says something that breaks my heart: "I had a lot of demons in me thinking I was a bad person. I would pray every single night that God would change me. PLEASE let me wake up tomorrow and be straight." He eventually realized everything he was doing was to make everyone else happy, but was afraid to confront what would make HIM happy. He then speaks about Constance McMillan and the prom incident in Mississippi [For her story, see my blog entries on March 23rd, 29th, and 30th 2010]. It was the treatment of Constance that caused Lance to finally come out. Lance was highly respected in his home state and he was the youngest ever inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. When he came out of the closet, all of that was erased. He had been so proud to be from Mississippi and yet it seemed like the whole state turned their back on him and tried to destroy any trace of his existence. Because of being gay, he would receive death threats and he feared for the safety of him and his family. He made a documentary on being gay, and it has changed the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of kids. Lance gives me hope when he says, "If we can change minds in Mississippi - we can change minds anywhere!"

President Clinton: In school, instead of playing football, he was in the band. He says, "I was picked on because I wore uncool clothes and I didn't play football." Bill quickly gained the reputation of a peace maker. His stepfather was an alcoholic who regularly beat his mother and little brother. One day Bill walked in on a beating and said, "No more! It stops today. You will never do this again to us!" He had troubles at home and at school. He says he was picked on all of the time because he was overweight. He didn't let bullies win the head game and Ling asks how did you develop the ability to do that, and he credits his mother. She constantly told him to be the best person that he could be, to live how he wanted to, and to not let other people define whether he was good or bad. He says he had the support of friends and he really worries about those who have to face the situation all alone without support and no one to confide in. He says, "They have to maintain control of their own lives and it begins with how they see themselves. Their life is worth just as much as the person doing the bullying. They have to see themselves as worthy people. You just can't give people permission to wreck your life. You can't. I know it's hard to do, but a lot of life is not giving people permission to put you in little boxes that they want you in." "I think what it did was give me extraordinary antenna for other people's suffering and a very low tolerance for people abusing other people just for the sake of it." "You can't be blind to your own shortcomings, blind to your own faults, but when you give in to those sorts of attacks you wind up doing self-destructive things which feed the line against you. That is the thing I worry most about with kids actually. I worry about if you're told you are worthless or you are told you're too fat, or you're told that you are too weird that it hurts so bad, you get so impacted, that you wind up doing self-destructive things which it make it look like the people who attacked you were right when they weren't right in the first place." He says he once asked Nelson Mandela how he survived jail and still came out without being jaded or meaner. Nelson said, "Well, they took everything away from me except for my mind and my heart and I decided not to give them away. No one should ever give them away." Clinton continues, "We have to somehow start teaching kids that, then that will also help us reduce the bullying." Ling asks him what needs to happen to stop this. "First of all, there ought to be in every school some mechanism by which a student observing this can report it anonymously so they are not subject to riducule or they don't get beat up or something happen to them. And then there needs to be an aggressive act to intervene." Ling says she is a new mother and asks Clinton what she should do as a parent. Bill says, "Raise a child that believes in herself, who is told she is beautiful, is told she is smart, is told that she is good so that if she becomes subject to this at some point, even though it may hurt her, she sees it as the other persons problem and not hers. I do think there is always going to be a fine line between harassment and kidding from something that is far more destructive. I think the line will be much brighter and clearer if the children are raised to have a high opinion of themselves. In a good sense, not to be immune from their own wrong-doing or their own weaknesses, but just to know that they matter."

Oprah Winfrey: "Every person who is bullying is a person who is dangerously in pain and so I think any kind of bullying campaign that doesn't address the bully too is a half-step. You have to do both."

Sir Elton John: "Bullies are usually clever enough to pick on people that can't fight back. Take a minute of your life to think of Why am I being so negative about things? Instead of bullying, do something decent, do something that helps other people."

Cat Cora: "We need the schools to step up. They can't be in denial. If there is an issue of bullying, that needs to be taken seriously because kids are dying because of it. Kids are taking their own lives."

Laura Ling: Every day 160,000 students stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied.


There is something that recently changed the dynamics of bullying: The Internet. Kids used to be able to find safe shelter at home, but now they are being bullied 24-7-365. They have no means of escape.

If you or someone you know is being bullied and in crisis, I've posted a list of resources that can help. It was originally written for LGBT youth, but most of those resources apply to any victim bullying: Youth Resources

We have to find a way to get this message out to kids, but more than that, we also have to educate the parents and teachers about this needless destructive behaviour. I don't want a family to lose another child because a bully has tortured them to a point that they take their own lives. We can put a stop to this, but it will take work from everyone. Let's get started!

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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