In recent years, schools have begun to take a closer look at acts of bullying, as more and more children are being victimized across the country. Just five days ago, for example, an 11-year-old boy in North Carolina attempted suicide after being bullied for his interest in the children’s show “My Little Pony.” So how can we work to stop and prevent bullying? International Business Times spoke with singer Meredith O'Connor, 18, who is embarking on a school tour this month to sing and talk about anti-bullying.
The Long Island, NY, native is using her voice for good, after she faced pressure growing up due to being “different,” as she had a passion for the arts from a young age. She has trained in classical, Broadway, theater and dance, pop vocals and performed in such productions as "Annie" and "Grease." She has a growing singing career, and in addition, O’Connor will be showing her acting chops as “Queen Bee” in upcoming anti-bully horror film, “Red Head Randy,” created to spread awareness about the importance of not bullying.
International Business Times: How did your career begin?
Meredith O’Connor: I started at age 8. I always wanted to be on Broadway, though my mother was a doctor and my father, a real estate agent. I tried out in a community play, and one thing led to another. I love music, acting and singing.
IBT: What made you interested in bullying prevention?
O’Connor: I was bullied as kid for having a dream and a passion. Pursuing a path that isn’t sports tends to be excluded, and I liked the arts. I stood out and I wasn’t like the rest. I got picked on because I had rehearsal shows and didn’t have the same time to make friends; I felt excluded and was gossiped about. I experienced a hard time growing up.
IBT: How did you get past the fact that you were bullied, and how did you become a stronger person?
O’Connor: What stopped me from contemplating suicide, etc., is that I had a passion for music, which got me through those thoughts. Through singing and acting, the exact things I was bullied for, I was able to ask myself: If I could love something so much, why would I not love myself? I realized I had something special to offer.
IBT: How did you decide to use singing to help fight against bullying?
O’Connor: My song "Celebrity" went viral in February 2013 [with over 2,000,000 views to date] on YouTube, so I realized I can use my voice for good. Music was able to get me to a place where I was happy, and I knew I wanted to have a cause. Music inspired me to speak out and put meaning behind my career. “The Game” [which is about bullying], came out shortly after. Fans loved it, and while it was not as big as “Celebrity,” we really changed the lives of some children. All of their problems are so much of mine, and it is so ironic when kids message me on Facebook or fans approach me after a show. I’m very passionate and enjoy reaching out to fans.
IBT: What is the message you are hoping to get across while on tour?
O’Connor: If you’re feeling alone, know you aren’t, and bullying is only temporary. But lessons you learn from it last a lifetime. So make sure you don’t believe what others tell you and you’ll be ahead the game.