Oh hey there! Welcome to my new blog here on The Huffington Post!
(And can I just stop here for a second to say, I'm totally new at this whole thing, and this is seriously one of the coolest things that's happened to me. I mean, getting to blog on The Huffington Post!?)
Alright. I'm done freaking out for now.
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Benni Cinkle. I'm simply a 14-year-old high school freshman from Southern California. I love listening to music, singing, dancing, hanging out with my friends, and basically doing what you'd expect an average teen to do.
Oh yeah, I also appeared in a friend's video this past spring, just for fun. That friend was Rebecca Black, and that little video was called "Friday."
That video changed my life.
For some reason, even though I was on screen for less than 10 seconds, something about my dancing (which, I admit, wasn't exactly... professional) made a lot of people really, ridiculously, inexplicably angry. And voilà! I became the new target of quite a few Internet haters.
Suddenly thousands of total strangers were saying rude things about me and calling me names like: lame, loser, awful, worthless, annoying, fat, ugly, dumb, horrible, stupid, freak -- and those aren't even the bad ones, lol. They also made gifs of me dancing and reposted it all over YouTube and Facebook (but I gotta admit, those were pretty hilarious). It seemed like the whole world had something to say about me. At first I was pretty shocked because, I mean, I'm just a kid who danced in a video, right? But then I realized that all that hate couldn't have been directed at me personally. How could someone really hate someone they know absolutely nothing about?
So I laughed and I joked with the haters. I admitted that, yes, my dancing was pretty awkward, thank you very much.
And then something happened. Something that I didn't expect at all. People who were hating on me suddenly started taking an interest in me. They made Facebook fan pages for me and started putting my photo as their profile pictures! The first time I saw it, I was just like, "... what?!" They didn't know my name, so they were calling me "Sammy," "Madge," "Nadine," and "that girl in pink that dances awkwardly." So then I made my own official Facebook profile and fan page. I was getting thousands of questions every day, along with requests for me to do my dance, to sing, and to marry them on Facebook! What was even more amazing was that people started asking me for advice on how to deal with bullying and asking how I stayed so positive when everyone was being so mean. They were sharing the things that they were going through at home and at school. They were struggling with their weight, or their sexuality, or abusive relationships, and so many other things. Basically, anything these kids were facing, they were sharing with me. Reading story after story, my heart was broken.
So I did my little awkward four-second dance for them in my YouTube videos (which helped raise money for earthquake relief in Japan). I organized teams of people from around the world to walk with me for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual "Great Strides" fundraiser. Then I wrote an e-book on how to handle cyberbullying (if you'd like to read it, it's available as a free download on thatgirlinpink.org).
And then, I remembered something. Something I wrote down long before the "Friday" video.
Quite a while ago, I was on a site called Six Billion Secrets. It's a site for anyone with troubles to speak about what they're going through in a completely anonymous, non-judgmental setting. After reading stories about kids getting bullied, raped, abused, or kicked out, I didn't know what to do with all that emotion. I mean, on the outside, these kids looked just like me. On the inside, they were hiding some terrible secret. Any one of those stories could have been posted by my closest friend. So I wrote down what I was feeling and it sort of turned into a song. It was a song about getting through what's happening in your life. A song saying, "Yeah, this is tough. But there is light at the end of this tunnel."
And this summer, I recorded that song. It's called "Can You See Me Now." The video that goes with it is partially my story. But it's mostly the story of kids around the world who have gone through so much and who have inspired me with their courage, honesty, and willingness to face the haters for another day. The net proceeds of the song are going to charities like GLSEN, Trevor Project, TWLOHA, ChildLine, and my own, That Girl in Pink Foundation, so that together we can help the kids and teens that really need our support. So that's my story -- so far.
This blog, though, is about us kids. So tell me, what inspires you? What makes you think, laugh, or want to cry? I want to hear it all. Send me your stories, questions, and comments. Let me know what's on your mind. Together we'll laugh, we'll cry, and we'll get mad. Although I promise, there's going to be a lot more laughing than anything else.