You may recognize me from my photo that was turned into a cruel meme. In January of 2015, a friend of mine who runs a makeup Instagram account asked to do my makeup. I was having an allergic reaction to Benzyl Peroxide at the time and I knew I needed help covering my acne. The make-up artist posted a before and after photo of my make over on her IG timeline.
Months later, I was told that there was a meme circulating of me. I almost couldn’t believe it until I was mysteriously tagged in an FB post of my Meme by British Dj Samm Irssak. At that point the meme had been shared over 125 thousand times. I think at one point Twitter tracked the meme at over 5 million shares. That meme has over 7 million shares across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube combined.
There were hundreds of thousands of shares and horrible comments. Most of them were making fun of my acne and how I looked. I think the most popular hate comment was “this is the reason you have to take a b**** swimming on the first date’” I already had a hard time struggling with my acne and now it was impossible for me to have any self confidence, knowing what people were saying about me.
The comments and shares were not just in the US but also globally. Imagine waking up one day and feeling like the world thinks you're the ugliest person on the internet?? It was all starting to get to me so I decided to post a video on YouTube called “My Response to My Viral Meme.” I wanted to get the message out there and show that there is a real person behind those meme’s that everyone laughs at. I wanted people to know that I wasn’t going to let the horrible comments or negativity get to me.
I wanted to use my own experience to help out anyone else who may be a victim of cyberbullying. That video again went viral and had over one million shares. There was a lot of support that came from people that had heard my story. I started to gain my confidence back when I started treating my acne and actively researching how I could help other people like me.
What happened after the viral fame?
I stopped focusing on social media and focused more on myself. I realized that this unfortunate situation created a new purpose for me. I was still picking up the pieces of my self esteem to face friends and peers at school that I thought saw the meme. As it turns out the thing that ridiculed me eventually led to curing my acne.
After my story received press and I was on TV, I started to receive mystery boxes being sent to my home from skincare companies. They were asking me to pose with their products on instagram to promote using them. They didn’t care if their products worked to clear my skin or not. I didn’t use any of them because I wasn’t sure what ingredients were in them.
What is Cure The Hate?
Cure The Hate is a cause I started to raise awareness on acne shaming and cyberbullying. I researched cyber bullying foundations that I could partner with located in the US. The Tyler Clementi Foundation was the one that I connected with the most. After reading Tyler’s story, I was impressed by all the work they are doing with their Day 1 campaign. I also found out that TCF is the only cyber bullying foundation that offers free legal services to victims of cyberbullying. I decided to reach out to TCF to see if they might be interested in supporting Cure The Hate and becoming a partner.
My goal is to raise TCF’s #upstander pledges to the millions! We also targeted the digital community by creating and working with some of today’s top YouTube influencers for collaborative videos. I worked with Michelle Phan (ipsy), Jordan Cheyenne (Beauty guru), MaxnoSleeves (lifestyle vlogger) and Honey B
Eileen (celebrity makeup artist), just to name a few. Creating these videos caught the eye of Cassandra Bankson (Youtube creator) and Kelly Osbourne who tweeted out the #curethehate campaign. Eventually, acne activist, writer and model Cassandra Bankson joined #Curethehate to support our cause.
What is Acne Shaming?
It’s shaming others for having acne. Acne is the most common skin condition in dermatology. It’s crazy that so many people had such horrible things to say about a condition your sister or best friend may have. Beyond the acne shaming, it’s more or less to raise awareness on cruelty based comments that get so easily posted or shared online.
Did the Internet ruin your life?
I’d say that maybe for a short period of time in the beginning it did. I also wouldn’t say that is was the internet as much as social media. This all started with Instagram then Twitter, SnapChat and finally YouTube. My self esteem was starting to get affected by all the hate comments. it was hard to get out of bed some mornings. I felt like I had to be super made-up and looking perfect every time I went out. I didn’t want anyone to stop me and possibly recognize me from the meme. I didn’t go on social media for months. I never knew what I was going to see. It went from looking at every comment to not wanting to see any of them at all. I finally started to get desensitized to the negativity and really focused on the positive.
Why did you do it? (what you did on the Internet)
I think what sets my story apart from others is that I didn’t do this to myself. Someone else posted my photo on their timeline. I didn’t do anything crazy for it to go viral. It all just kind of all happened. It’s really true that this kinda thing can happen to anyone. Most of the people that end up going viral are doing putting themselves out there to promote their channel. I don’t vlog. Instead of using my experience to benefit myself, I decided to help others by starting Cure The Hate.
What did you learn from it all?
I learned that there are a LOT of unhappy people out there! Miserable people use the internet as a punching bag for their own frustrations. I also think it’s a lot easier for someone to say horrible comments when they truly don’t know you.
Some people feel like they can get away with a lot when they know they can hide behind a computer screen or a fake account. That’s why I started Cure The Hate, to empower others to take a stand against cyberbullying. Most of the time videos, tweets or photos go viral and then disappear. You don’t really get to hear the story behind how it all happened. The SyFy Show IRML did a segment on my story. I did it because I thought it was important to expose the realities of being digitally famous. The ups and down’s that come along with it all. What happened to me could happen to just about anyone if your photo somehow went viral overnight.
What do you want others to learn (take away) from your story?
I want people to really understand that the faces on the Meme’s or viral photos are real people. I think it’s
important for people to see the good and bad that can come with stories like mine.
I want to spread the message that you have the power to Cure The Hate by taking a stand against cyber bullying and loving yourself just the way you are. I’d also suggest to ladies that if a guy calls you a b****, don’t go swimming with him or date him! Love yourself first. People need to stop being so shallow and stop shaming people for a condition as common as acne. Hopefully people can look at stories like mine and see that they can survive situations like this and still come out on top. If not, better than ever!