This is a guest post from Samara Postuma, a freelance writer in the suburbs of Minneapolis. She writes about parenting life at Simplicity In The Suburbs and Star Tribune. Verizon compensated Samara for covering the event at the Mall.
October is Bullying Prevention Month, and thanks in part to a grant from Verizon’s HopeLine to PACER Center, teenage YouTube star Bethany Mota, took the stage at Mall of America on Oct. 20 and is lending her voice and platform to a cause that is near and dear to her heart.
When Bethany was a middle schooler, she was cyberbullied. Peers created a fake Facebook profile with her photos and made fun of her appearance and the things she would say. “It definitely affected my self-confidence and happiness about life,” she told the crowd gathered at Mall of America for MOTAvateATMOA to kick off Together Against Bullying Day, which is a partnership between PACER Center, Verizon Wireless, Mall of America and the Minnesota Vikings. Bethany didn’t let being bullied stop her from becoming who she was meant to be when at the age of 13 she hit publish on her very first YouTube video. “It was really hard because I was really shy, but I did it and it quickly became a creative outlet for me,” she said.
The 19-year-old, who already has more than 9.5 million followers on YouTube, started at a time when being a “YouTuber” was unheard of. “My family has always been supportive, but people were really confused on what exactly it was I was doing,” she said, noting that when she started making videos on YouTube, she had no idea there would be a path to success. What initially started as a distraction, quickly became more than that. “I originally wanted to do music covers, but singing scared me, so I started doing Vlogs and DIY’s.”
Now Bethany posts one video per week and believes that part of what’s made her successful is her consistency and engagement. “People take time to watch my videos and comment,” she says, adding that, “I want to make sure I am talking to them, too.” She also believes her authenticity sets her apart. “I felt a lot of pressure to do what everyone else was doing, but I slowly became more comfortable with being myself. I started to put bloopers in, and I think people can see my genuine passion.” Bethany tells her fans the same thing when it comes to bullying prevention. “Be you. You don’t have to meet society’s standards because that’s just tiring,” she says in a way that only someone who’s been there can say.
And for the future, what’s up her sleeve? “I’m going to keep creating. I love that I have the freedom to make the content I want to make,” she said, also adding that she’s starting to get into music just like she wanted to do when she first started. Bethany’s future is certainly looking big and bright as she launched a holiday collection of clothing for Aeropostale, wrapped up a season of Dancing with the Stars and continues to travel the world to meet fans.
Just like Bethany, Verizon is committed to bullying prevention, and we use our HopeLine program to promote healthy relationships at all ages. While the national recycling and reuse program was primarily created to help domestic violence/sexual assault victims and survivors, we believe that kids need to start learning about healthy relationships from a young age, and bullying prevention is similar to the teen violence prevention programs we already support. Verizon has teamed up with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and the Minnesota Vikings to promote bullying prevention in Minnesota.