Celebrities use platforms to denounce bullying

By Seth Beifel
Staff writer

“Baby, I was born this way” is one of the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s hit song, Born This Way. The song highlights what it means to be different or unique and how it should be less of a faux pas and more of a norm. A growing number of celebrities have started to speak out about how they were picked on as children and to speak up for people who are bullied today.

Raising awareness of bullying has led to people speaking out regarding the topic; celebrities are no exception.

“There are many celebrities that are now openly talking about their own bouts with bullying, it is THE popular topic,” says Bully Police USA Co-Director Kevin Epling. Celebrities ranging from the aforementioned Lady Gaga to former President Bill Clinton to TV host Ellen Degeneres all experienced bullying and are now talking candidly about it.

Degeneres has recently used her television program to communicate this message: “teenage bullying and teasing is an epidemic in this country.” Referencing the death of former Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, who was bullied and would later take his own life, Degeneres uses her personal bout with bullying to emphasize the reality of the topic.

“(Degeneres) is also talking about the topic and not just when the media is reporting a story,” Epling said. “She is trying to keep it in the public eye when she can.”

Celebrities have been using their status to raise awareness of what Degeneres has called an “epidemic.”

E-Poll, a market research company, conducted a study that found, “During teens’ growth process, they often rely on celebrities and images in popular culture to act as connectors to social acceptance, but also to help them define their own identity.”

Another way that celebrities are waging anti-bullying efforts is through their areas of expertise, as the band Foster the People does with its music. While unavailable for comment, their lyrics of some of the band’s most popular songs have anti-bullying undertones, which has led group leader Mark Foster to be more vocal on the issue.

In a CNN interview, Foster spoke of his struggle with bullying while growing up. “I experienced bullying a lot,” he said. Foster continues by saying, “I was kind of a small kid with a big mouth, and so I always got myself in trouble….And I grew up in Cleveland. It’s pretty blue collar, and kids know how to fight there, so that was a real thing, for sure.” He further makes reference to his band’s most popular and award winning song Pumped Up Kicks, about the internal struggle of an adolescent and the prospect of what to do with a gun.

The violence of Foster’s song provides a way that he and his group are able to present the issue to youth.

The lyrics in Foster the People’s song Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) go, “One two three close your eyes and count to four; I’m gonna (I’d like) to hide behind my bedroom door; Crayons on walls; I’ll color on them all; I’ll draw until I’ve broken every law.” This lyric describes a young child dealing with bullying and as Foster describes, is something that he has dealt with himself.

Although celebrities are able to capture the attention of a large audience when they speak, Epling says he is cautious about accepting their support.

“There is a part of me that, until I really see what they are actually doing, I am wary of celebrities jumping on the bandwagon,” Epling said.

Celebrities always have trending issues that they promote and bullying is one of those topics now. Lady Gaga’s foundation hopes to, “lead youth into a braver new society where each individual is accepted and loved as the person they were born to be.” This is the type of message that parents of those effected by bullying such as Epling want to hear.

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