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Emily-Anne Rigal Headshot

Why I'm Stopping Hate With Monsters

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Growing up as a child who endured constant bullying was never easy. Fortunately, I switched schools at age 10 and began making genuine friends as I entered into middle school. Although I gradually regained my self-confidence, the memories of my painful childhood stayed with me. Therefore, at age 16, I began encouraging my friends to post anti-bullying videos on the website I had just created called WeStopHate.org.

Over the last two years, WeStopHate, which serves to combat bullying by raising "teen-esteem," has blossomed into a full-fledged grassroots movement. Through our YouTube videos, Tumblr posts, Facebook photos and Twitter updates, WeStopHate has impacted over 100,000 young people around the world! It's hard for me to believe that we've reached so many people, but my goal is to reach 1000000000,0000000000,000000000 people -- assuming that's a real number!

That's why, when Monster High approached me to further spread the WeStopHate message, I couldn't have been happier. The last two years have been a whirlwind... It's been amazing to see everyone from a distant friend to a major celebrity -- and yes, I mean THE Lady Gaga -- support WeStopHate, to realize that every teen has a story to tell and to see firsthand that my actions can make a real impact.

Monster High is a tween brand by Mattel that highlights a group of friends throughout their high school journey. These aren't just any friends though. They're the daughters of Monsters: Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolff, and my personal favorite, Draculaura, who has been on my iPhone case for weeks!

As part of the partnership, I visited the Mattel offices to meet with Monster High's creator, Garrett Sander. We were able to talk about the founding idea that each one of us is "perfectly-imperfect" and bond over our mutual belief that it's time to make "freaky flaws" a cool thing!

Something I hear from the teens at WeStopHate is how -- whether they are popular or unpopular -- at some time or another, they each feel different and like they don't fit in. Garrett shared with me that he calls this "feeling like a monster," and his goal is for girls to realize that no one is perfect, and that's totally OK. I can certainly get used to seeing the world this way!

When I started, I had no idea that my simple idea of asking friends to post anti-bullying videos online could eventually reach a network this big! Together, we will spend the summer making sure girls understand that tween-esteem starts from the inside out, and those who are happy with themselves are less likely to put others down.

People always ask me what the turning point was -- when I truly started feeling the power of self-confidence. Making genuine friends was absolutely the start, but being good at something I was passionate about also made a very powerful impact. If a teenage girl from a small town in Virginia can start a movement and inspire others, anyone can!