Bullying and teasing have become prevalent in today's society. There are messages everywhere that validate this behavior and make it acceptable to treat others poorly. It is time we stop humiliating people because they are "different." Belittling others has to stop and it has to start with us. Stand up for someone who needs your help and If you're being bullied -- you are not alone.
Growing up in the small town of Prairie Village, Kansas, I always knew I was unique. Instead of playing T-ball, I wanted to be in dance class. Instead of playing at recess, I was designing costumes for my future "Sold Out World Tour." I can vividly remember at seven years old performing for just about anyone who would watch me. It wasn't until second grade when I was "The New Kid" at school that I realized bullying existed.
I danced in my school talent show, and from that moment on my life would never be the same. I performed in a purple sequin jacket with matching purple biker shorts. The guys teased me because dancing was "for girls" and the girls teased me because "boys play soccer." After this performance, the kids teased me so badly that I remember not even wanting to attend school ... and all for just being myself and doing what made me happy. Through the constant support of my family I faced adversity in small town middle America, and kept performing while holding on to the hope that, one day, things would get better.
Bullying stops us from being who we want to be and prevents us from expressing ourselves freely. Bullying can hurt children and have damaging effects on the rest of their lives. Now, as a successful grown adult looking back, I know that these kids bullied me because they were scared of me. At such a young age I had the courage and conviction to be exactly who I was. I possessed strong traits that they couldn't comprehend and the only way they knew to deal with their fears was to lash out and bully me.
Throughout Summer Camp airing on television, I have received thousands of messages from youth and even adults across America. Whether it was a young kid hoping to make it big on Broadway, a teen being harassed at school or a young gay person struggling to fit in, they all had recurring themes. They all want to feel good about themselves. They all want to be loved.
After each episode aired I would sit with a cup of coffee spending countless hours responding to each and every person. While driving in my car one day I heard Macklemore's new song "Same Love" for the first time. The message of this song was so genuine and refreshing to hear coming from the sometimes disappointing music industry. I was so inspired with his words that I teamed up with Mayme Marshall to create a music project aiming to spread more awareness and encouragement to love. We found songs that we both related to that had strong messages. We decided to call this project "Who You Are."
To any child or person out there that feels like they can't be who they are, there is a world of possibilities out there waiting for you. I am now living out the dreams that I created when I was seven years old and, one day, you too will be celebrated for the special, unique qualities that make you, you. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. Push the boundaries of love and acceptance. Spread tolerance and equality for all people.
Love all -- including yourself.