Bullies made fun of Meredith O’Connor when she was in middle school, purposely excluding her and even breaking her nose. So after her pop song “Celebrity” went viral, she decided to use her newfound celebrity as a platform to speak out against bullying.
“I know from experience how alone I felt,” she said after performing for students at Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles on Friday. “And I get thousands of letters from people all over the world — from students at schools I’ve visited and also fans — who tell me that they are being bullied and that they feel alone.”
Although she now tours the world, O’Connor wants victims of bullying to know they aren’t alone. So she speaks to students about her own experiences growing up in New York.
“We’ve been to over 50 cities in the last tour and over 50 schools,” she said.
O’Connor visited Flamson and Lewis middle schools in Paso Robles on Friday.
“How many of you guys have ever seen bullying happen?” she asked a crowd of Flamson sixth-graders. Most raised their hands. Then she asked how many had been bullied, and again, many raised their hands.
“You are not alone,” she said. “It happens all the time. And you know what? It gets better.”
I know from experience how alone I felt.
Teen pop singer Meredith O’Connor
O’Connor’s video for “Celebrity” has garnered more than 2 million views on YouTube. On her next song, “The Game,” she related her personal story of being bullied. After that, “Just the Thing” noted that it’s good to stand out. Meanwhile, “I Am,” from her album of the same name, focused on overcoming adversity.
The video for “Just the Thing” was featured on the TeenNick cable channel.
O’Connor, 19 and from Long Island, N.Y., told kids she was picked on for a variety of things, including her height and the way she talked. But she used the arts as an outlet.
“It does get better,” she told students.
After performing several songs, O’Connor answered questions — about bullying, her boots and celebrities she’s met. Students were particularly impressed when she said she’d met Snoop Dogg. But, she told The Tribune, she often hears stories from kids who have more serious issues.
“A lot of the messages I do get are involving self harm or suicidal thoughts,” she said, “so teaching the importance of mental health is also something I want to make a mainstream topic.”
When she was bullied, she said, she believed it was her fault. If kids can recognize they are not alone and seek guidance, she said, they can become more confident.
“When your confidence is raised, then you’ll be able to stop and stand up for yourself and seek the help you need,” she said.
Bullies will make fun of kids for a variety of things, she told the students at Flamson.
“But the truth of the matter is, those are the things that make you special.”