BYOU Magazine featured Kat McNamara as our Love Yourself cover story (Kat McNamara: Beauty + Brains + A Whole Lot More!) and also features her column “Kat’s Korner” in every issue where she gives empowering advice to our readers! You’ll recognize Kat from her roles on many Disney Channel shows, co-starring as “Myra” in the Disney Channel Original Movie Girl vs. Monster alongside Olivia Holt, co-starring in the anti-bullying movie Contest (check out her video and interview below with co-star Kenton Duty!), in the MTV series Happyland, “Sonya” in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, and as “Clara Fray” in the new Freeform show Shadowhunters!
Kat is also an ambassador for Stomp Out Bullying and the Cartoon Network’s STOP BULLYING: SPEAK UP campaign, and tells us that both groups have help lines and resources to help kids, teens, parents, and educators on what they can do to stop bullying. Below, Kat discusses bullying in this article she wrote exclusively for BYOU Magazine…
Bullying has become way too common in our society – so common that it is now seen as an epidemic. Today, people prepare children to be bullied and treat it as a fact of life. My question to those people is why not focus that energy on preventing bullying in the first place. If kids and adults work together to stop bullying at its source, we may be able to make it stop for good.
As kids, you have a front row seat to the bullying that goes on every day. Maybe you see someone around you being bullied and you don’t know how to help. Maybe you are the one who is being bullied for who you are or something you love. Maybe you are the bully who doesn’t understand how much your words and actions can hurt those around you. Whoever you are, YOU have the power to make a change and to speak up and stop the bullying.
If you are being bullied the first thing you need to do is tell someone you trust what is going on. Whether that person is a parent, a friend’s parent, a teacher, a principal, a coach, a religious leader, or another trusted adult, it is really important that you make them aware of the situation. Bullying can escalate very easily from something that doesn’t seem like a big deal to a seriously dangerous situation in no time flat. If an adult knows what is going on and knows the history of the situation, they can look out for you and step in before it becomes dangerous. If you are being bullied you need to know that it is NOT your fault. You are who you are and that’s amazing! Everyone has something special that only they can offer to the world. By being your unique self, you can use these gifts to help make this world a better place in a way that only YOU can. Always remember that.
If you see someone being bullied and you feel safe enough to do so, step in and support the person who is being hurt. If someone steps in to help, the bully may realize that what they are doing is wrong. There is usually safety in numbers and both you and the person being bullied will feel better if you are there to support each other. If the situation is dangerous and you can’t intervene without endangering yourself, once again, tell a trusted adult. Whether that person is a parent, a friend’s parent, a teacher, a principal, a coach, a religious leader, or another trusted adult, it is really important that you make them aware of the situation so they can protect the person who is being bullied and any other potential victims. Most importantly, check in with the person who was hurt and make sure they are okay. Let them know that they have a friend in you and that you are there to support them and celebrate who they are.
If you are a bully and have realized your actions are wrong, its never too late to make a change. First of all, kudos to you for having the initiative to change your ways. Most bullies don’t realize that what they are doing is wrong and is hurting people. You may feel bad about your past, but don’t worry. Today is a new day! You can start fresh! The place to start is by apologizing to anyone you may have hurt and letting them know that you realize what you did was wrong, but you’re ready to start over. If you are kind to people and let your true colors show, you will be surprised how many people will accept you and support you as well. Give a complement to a stranger, smile at someone walking down the hall, help someone who is lost find their class, sit with someone who is alone at lunch, be kind to those around you! You will be surprised at how many new friends you will gain just through a bit of kindness.
Most importantly, always be sure to speak up and help stop the bullying going on around you! If everyone does their part, we can stop bullying and cure this epidemic for good. YOU have the power to make a difference, so SPEAK UP! Be sure to check out Stop Bullying Speak Up to see how you can make a difference and take the pledge against bullying.
Kat’s Exclusive Interview for BYOU Magazine with Contest Co-Star Kenton Duty!
I filmed a movie called Contest that follows the story of two students, a bully and his victim, who are forced to work together on a television cooking contest for teens. Through the contest, they form an unlikely friendship. The bully, Matt (played by Kenton Duty), is very concerned with his popularity and how his peers see him. He is afraid that if he truly commits to being friends with his former victim he will lose the respect of those around him and his position at the top of the school’s social ladder. However, he learns that being kind has even greater rewards and true friends are the only friends that matter.
As a special added bonus for the BYOU Magazine readers, I interviewed my friend and co-star from Contest, Kenton Duty! We chatted about the movie, bullying, and popularity. Check it out!
Kat: What was it like to play a bully?
Kenton: It was such a different character for me and from my real personality. It was very interesting to think how Matt developed into the bully and then made the decision to change his behavior. I wanted the audience to feel the intensity of Matt’s bullying so they could witness his change. Raising awareness of bullying is important to me.
Kat: Were you ever bullied?
Kenton: Yes, I have been bullied quite a bit. When I was younger, I was short for my age. I also have food allergies, so that makes me “different” and a target for bullies. When I read the script for Contest, I knew that this story needed to be told.
Kat: Why do you think kids bully?
Kenton: From doing this movie, I have a better perspective on those who bully me. The light bulb came off when I realized there is always a reason for everything. There’s a backstory for every bully, a reason why they feel they need to have that power and control over other people. Often it’s because, like my character in the movie, Matt, he needs control over other kids because he doesn’t have control over his own life. I believe kids bully because they are hurting. There is usually an underlying issue they need to deal with. They may try to control others through verbal abuse and insults and by making people feel small. They’re very negative, critical people. The bully is bypassing the necessary step to work through an issue with another person.
Kat: A powerful moment in the movie was when your character, Matt, was shifting from being the ‘fake’ mean guy into a kinder, more ‘real, version of himself, and said he hadn’t been bullying in a few weeks and admitted it felt really good. How can we get kids to realize that they will be much happier deep down if they can just be themselves and treat other people the way they would like to be treated?
Kenton: This point is so important. I believe that education can help the bully realize his/her behavior. The bully can get caught up in evading others and having a stronghold on control. Education can also help those being bullied know how to communicate to others. Education can also help the by-stander, teachers, counselors, and parents know how to approach the bully and help that person begin a change in his/her behavior. Matt really showed how much happier he was once he was not bullying others.
Kat: Is popularity as important as people think it is? Do you think it’s worth it if you have to be mean?
Kenton: I personally feel that popularity should not be as important as some feel. To put so much emphasis on being in the “in crowd” puts pressure on people. Parents/siblings put pressures on kids to be popular. Each person brings a uniqueness to the table. Each person’s uniqueness should not be limited. Being “popular” is not worth it if it means being mean to others. We need to be with those people who support us and we support them. It does not matter what group anyone belongs to. What is important is that we are in a circle of friends who support each other, stand up for each other, and speak up if we see someone in our circle being bullied. Be there for your circle of friends, no matter the “popularity” rating!
Kat: We both sang songs in the soundtrack we wrote for the movie. Would you tell us what your song “Breaking the Surface” is about?
Kenton: I am so pleased with the song and its purpose and meaning to the movie. The lyrics are inspired by my character being a swimmer. The song talks about “breaking” through the pressures of each of our lives that are pulling us down. It can be pressures we put on ourselves or pressures others put on us. We need to “break” through to become the person we want to be. This is the message I would like the audience to grab into after hearing the song. I debuted the song at the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day at the U.S. Tennis Open. It is a very personal song. This song and the others from the movie are available on iTunes.
Kat: What can kids do to help put a stop to bullying?
Kenton: Kids can Speak Up. Kids can stand up for each other. If you are being bullied or witnessing someone being bullied, talk to a trusted adult. Those being bullied can also find a support group. Have friends by your side you know will be there for you and protect you. Also kids can reassure each other that it is not their fault they are being bullied. Go to Cartoon Network and take the pledge.
NOTE FROM KAT: Be sure to check out CONTEST on DVD in a Wal-Mart store near you. Also, check out the soundtrack for the movie available on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/music-video/chatter-from-tv-movie-soundtrack/id716124866) that features my first original song, Chatter. The song is about letting your inner light shine and listening to those voices that are there to build you up, not the white noise and empty words bullies throw at you.
Kat McNamara at GIRLTOPIA
Kat was on both of the BYOU Magazine celebrity panels at the Girltopia LA Event sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles offering great girl-world advice to over 7000 Girl Scouts.
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