When I first moved to LA I went to therapy. It was early into the sessions, probably my third visit, and when I was walking into the room I passed a young girl, who looked to be about 12 years old, coming out the of the room with her mother. Her name was Ariel.
Seeing her gave me deja vous of being in 7th grade and having my mother take me to therapy, to deal with what was happening to me at school.
Anyway, I brought this up to my therapist and he started probing me about what had happened. Now this was about six years ago, and at that time I pretty much NEVER talked about being viciously bullied so I kind of brushed it off. But what I did say was how I felt this burning desire to help kids, but I didn't know how. I remember once when I lived in NYC, I saw an Oprah episode about teens who were being bullied, and I literally tried to call in to the network to see if they would put me in touch with some of the kids.
My therapist asked me what I would do to help, what would I say to a young girl who was being tortured day in and day out. One thing I remember saying is how I would go through it all again to get to where I was in my life. He asked me to come 30 minutes early the following week and asked if I would sit in on Ariel's sessions and see if there was something I could do to help her.
I went early the following week. I was SO nervous. I remember sitting on one end of the couch holding a pillow and she was on the other end holding a pillow. It was as if I was sitting with my younger self.
Ariel was a beautiful, brave, kind-hearted 13-year-old girl who was being tortured every day by her former best friends. A lot of it was happening at school and online. I told her over and over that it's NOT HER. It's THEM. We talked a great deal about compassion. Usually when people are bullied one of two things happen -- they either turn around and become a bully to others, or they develop a huge amount of sensitivity and compassion towards others and will spend their lives going out of their way to make sure no one feels the way they have felt. Ari and me are thankfully the latter.
I will never forget the time that I had Ari come to LA Fashion Week. We were producing a fashion show at Smashbox Studios and my business partners and I were running around like crazy people with headsets on, making sure everything was running flawlessly. But all I cared about in that moment was making sure that Ari and her grandma got in through security safely. I sat them front row in between an editor from Women's Wear Daily and Tara Reid. When the lights came on and every single eyeball in the room was on the models coming down the runway, my eyes were on Ari. She looked happy. So happy. She was taking pictures and watching in awe. And I knew that this was just a few hours of relief from what she was dealing with at school. It was by far one of the best moments I have ever had as a publicist.
I remember sending sweats for her bunk mates at camp one summer. I mean, we sent endless amount of free product to celebrities, a few pairs of sweats sent to an overnight camp couldn't hurt ☺
Ari got through the rest of school and made it through high school and is now a freshman at college. I will know this bright soul forever and her mom is on the Board of The Farley Project.
I remember Ari's mom wrote me the kindest letter years ago, thanking me for helping to save her daughter while they were going through this awful ordeal. But helping Ari was what started my healing. It was she who saved me.
This kind of interpersonal connection is something that we are going to strive for with The Farley Project. We are not going to just go to a school and leave, we will be accessible for the kids. We want to have a dialogue with them. We want to help them.
After Peter Dinklage gave his Golden Globes speech and mentioned Martin Henderson, I googled Martin's name to find out what this was about. Martin was a victim of "dwarf tossing" at a bar in England. Some drunken athletes thought it would be funny to literally pick this man up and throw him around a bar...WHAT'S FUNNY ABOUT THAT?
What's funny about being mean to another person? Why does it make people feel good to make fun of others? We want to get to the root of this behavior and literally go in and re-teach kids how to behave. We want to re-enforce that being nasty will not make you feel better. We want to spread a message of love. And we are starting at our first school this April. I cannot wait!
Ari, you are so awesome and I just love you to pieces, keep that pretty head of yours way up always.
With love and compassion,