By Myki Angeline
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. Studies indicate that 1 in 4 youth are affected by bullying each school year which negatively impacts millions of children, parents, and individuals. This includes physical and verbal abuse, along with online cyberbullying and text message ‘sexting’. The epidemic has raised awareness with shows like the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why, and with powerful song anthems like rock artist Kim Kline’s “Stand Tall”, the single off her new, upcoming album Exhale, which is scheduled for release in the coming weeks.
Texas native Kim Kline recently debuted the much-anticipated video for her single, “Stand Tall” during National Suicide Prevention Week back in September. Directed by Clark Langon, the video reached over 90 countries and received nearly 30,000 views within the first two weeks of its release. Both the song (written by Kline) and the video give a positively powerful message that love and community can conquer bullying. The video includes various depictions of bullying scenarios, along with actual survivors who share their individual stories with handheld signs. “Bullying has become an alarming problem today especially with the acceleration of the internet and of social media” states Kim. “’Stand Tall’ is both timeless and relevant to modern times. It stresses on the ethos of resilience, fortitude and pride in the face of injustice and personal attacks.”
Each person involved in the making of this important project have their own stories of being bullied, including Kim herself. Here are just some of those stories shared by a few very brave, very beautiful humans as part of this exclusive look into the making of the video for “Stand Tall.”
16 year old Kristian Shirallie remembers being bullied from the time he was eleven until early in his freshman year of high school. Despite his attempts at remaining nice and caring, he was often verbally teased and physically attacked for having more female friends than male friends. He recalls being labeled “gay” and “faggot” even though he is straight, and all because of his choice of friends. Instead of fighting back with his fists, Kristian filed three separate bullying reports in school, but received no support nor relief from his teachers. It was after sharing those traumatic events with his parents did he find his inner strength. It is why Kristian appreciated being a part of the video, “‘Stand Tall’ represents how I stood tall and became confident and stopped caring of who or what says something. I stood up even if they told me I was no good at all.” says Kristian, “This is why I love Kim Kline’s song because it represents what I did to overcome this stage of bullying and it makes me who I am today – a strong, happy, confident, joyful, and caring human being.”
Natalie Alamillo was bullied in school by a boy for her physical appearance, which includes a beauty mark she has on her chin. The teasing started in 2nd grade and continued until 5th grade. Now an adult, Natalie remembers the details vividly, “He would point and laugh at it (the beauty mark), and say things like ‘what is that? It looks like dirt’, or ‘you have chocolate stuck on your chin’, recalls Natalie, “I remember (during arts and crafts) that he grabbed an orange piece of paper mâchè and put it against his chin, stood up, and said ‘who am I?’ Breaking into laughter. When he wasn’t teasing me about my beauty mark, he taunted that I was ugly or fat.” Over the years, this triggered insecurities which led to Natalie wanting to have her beauty mark removed. Fortunately, she learned over time to embrace her body, her looks, and to give no power to bullies.
For Rita Casman, her experience went beyond bullying to racism and sexual harassment, which stemmed from early childhood. She remembers being teased and harassed for her ability to speak fluent English, and made to believe she was ugly and fat. Her first attempt at suicide was at the tender age of 12. She had no friends for nearly six months. The constant name-calling and physical assaults made it a nightmare going to school. Rita believes her experience with sexual assault was the result of alcohol consumption by both herself and her attackers, “People think it’s because of what you wear or how you look…It has all been mostly because of alcohol. Society makes us think that it’s our fault because we were drinking or many other factors.”
In the beginning, Rita admits to becoming a bully herself. The constant exposure to negative actions forced the feeling she had to protect herself by judging others. Says Rita, “Bullying could have destroyed who I really am, I cancelled that by forgiving and loving. That’s why I had the perfect sign for me in this video (You constantly harassed me, that made drove me to love more). I actually thank the people that have hurt me in the past and present because I have become all the opposite. I wish them well. I’ve also learned that I can’t help everyone. The best we can do is spread the word by creating awareness and this (music) industry is one way we can.”
“When I moved to Los Angeles from Texas to work in the fashion industry and pursue my career in music I had already made a name for myself in fashion. I was on the wholesale side and built brands. I had a long career history in doing so. I had received a job offer that was well, ‘the opportunity of a lifetime.’ This particular brand had basically taken off and was on its way to being a top brand globally. I was asked to take the job for the West coast and run sales. My mother had just had her 1st brain aneurysm and my previous job had cut my pay in half due to a pay cut they had taken.
So, there I was trying to keep my job in California but was with my mother in Neuro ICU in Ft. Worth Texas. I was struggling financially, my boyfriend and I had broken up, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, and my mother’s insurance was running out. When I thought I couldn’t take anymore, I got that job! YES, the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ one. I was in survival mode. I didn’t know the hatred, jealousy and bullying I’d soon encounter. Rumors were being spread that I slept with my boss to get the job, that I had no skill set or credentials, that I didn’t deserve that job, and so on. One person in particular was wreaking havoc on my life because his family hired me for this brand instead of him. He tried to make my life miserable out of his jealousy. My mother always said to ‘kill people with kindness’, so I did. I took my power back. I was no longer going to be bullied or ridiculed anymore. I made a choice to stand up for myself and to ‘Stand Tall.’”
To learn more on how you can prevent bullying visit: www.stopbullying.gov