Bullying was a problem long before the media could publish up-to-the-minute reports on harassment stories with terribly tragic endings. But thankfully, today we have a slew of famous figures who made it through seemingly endless school years and are using their celebrity to speak out against schoolyard cruelty. Unsurprisingly, bullying is close to home for many of them, and they didn't have the kind of support they wanted or needed when encountering harassers. Now, they send their support to fans through anti-bullying campaigns, songs, and more.
Here are the top 7 pop singers determined to end bullying and advocate for bullying victims.
1) Lady Gaga
The mother of pop stars against bullying is definitely "Mother Monster" Lady Gaga, who started the Born This Way Foundation two years ago to "foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world."
The New Yorker, who is known to turn heads with her unconventional style choices and extreme performance art, wanted to put a stop to bullying before she launched her organization. When 14-year-old Lady Gaga fan Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after falling victim to anti-gay bullying, the recording artist expressed immense heartbreak about the death on Twitter: "The past days I've spent reflecting, crying, and yelling. I have so much anger. It is hard to feel love when cruelty takes someones life. Bullying must become illegal. It's a hate crime."
Given Lady Gaga's own experiences with teasing and taunting, it makes sense that she'd want to do everything in her power to prevent it. Two years ago, she told MTV in a video interview that a bunch of guys hurled her into a garbage bin on the streets of New York during high school.
"The boys picked me up and threw me in the trash can on the street, on the corner of my block while all the other girls from the school were leaving and could see me in the trash. And everybody was laughing. I was even laughing. I had that nervous 'ha ha ha' giggle and I just remember, like, holding back the tears, the lip quivering, and [thinking] 'don't let them see you.' I remember even one of the girls looking at me like 'are you about to cry? You're pathetic.' ... I remember I didn't tell anybody ... because it was too embarrassing."
Like Lady Gaga, "TiK ToK" singer Ke$ha doesn't tolerate anti-gay bullying. The 25-year-old says in the newest issue of Seventeen, "I'm all about standing up to gay/lesbian/transgender bullying, but it's also about my little brother. He’s 13 and he gets made fun of because he has a stutter. I just have zero tolerance for people making fun of others … I remember every person who told me I couldn’t do something or that I was ugly or too fat. I have a 'sh-t list' — people from my past who have been soulless and judgmental."
When Tyler Clementi took his life in fall 2010 after his college roommate posted a video of him engaging in sexual acts with another man, Ke$ha uploaded a video of her own to encourage bullied or abused folks not to give up, stating, "I just want to tell you, it will get better. It will. No matter if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, however you are choosing to live is beautiful and you have my full support and love ... When people are mean for no reason it's horrible, but I swear to God it will get better so please don't ever give up."
3) Taylor Swift
Pretty much everything Taylor Swift touches turns to gold, but she didn't have any star power in middle school, which she has publicly complained about many times and still seems to haunt her to this day. "Junior high was actually sort of hard because I got dumped by this group of popular girls," Swift told Teen Vogue in 2009. "They didn't think I was cool or pretty enough, so they stopped talking to me."
Once the Pennsylvania native became a big deal, the girls who'd taunted her came to one of her performances with full support as if they'd never thrown Swift under the bus in the first place. "They showed up, wearing my T-shirts and asking me to sign their CDs," the songbird went on to tell Teen Vogue. "It was bittersweet, because it made me realize that they didn't remember being mean to me and that I needed to forget about it, too."
But maybe she didn't. In 2011, Swift released powerful anti-bullying hit, "Mean," which has lyrics such as, "You can take me down with just one single blow, but you don't know, you don't know, someday I'll be living in a big old city and all you're going to be is mean."
4) Justin Bieber
The Biebs allowed the highly-publicized documentary Bully include his song, "Born To Be Somebody" in its trailer in part because he's had firsthand experiences with harassment. "I was bullied," the Canadian told Showbiz Tonight last year. "Most people in their lifetime have been bullied at some point. I think that it's about time that people start making a change."
"When I first saw [the video] on TMZ I thought, this is crazy, like I couldn't believe it, it's amazing," Bieber told the young Aussie. "It shows everybody else that you have to stand up for yourself and you can't just take it. The first thing you should do is go tell someone, but then you might have to hit back, sometimes you have to so I think that was important for you, especially in that situation. I'm proud of you — and so many other people are. This is Casey the punisher ... a kid who stood up for himself against bullying. A real life hero."
5) Selena Gomez
Bieb's on-again, off-again girlfriend Selena Gomez can't say she's been majorly bullied, but she told Ellen DeGeneres in 2011 that she hopes her music can help others through hard times.
"I think everybody obviously gets picked on and made fun of and I still obviously have to deal with it now," Gomez said. "It's already hard enough being 18 and figuring out who you are and what you want to be and people constantly want to take you down."
Gomez's upbeat tune "Who Says" addresses this plight with its lyrics, "You made me insecure, told me I wasn't good enough, but who are you to judge ... I'm sure you got some things you'd like to change about yourself, but when it comes to me I wouldn't want to be anybody else, I'm no beauty queen, I'm just beautiful me ... Who says, who says you're not perfect, who says you're not worth it, who says you're the only one that's hurting?"
6) Demi Lovato
For a 20-year-old "Remember December" singer Demi Lovato has led quite a life. At 18, she quit the Jonas Brothers tour to go to a treatment center to resolve "emotional and physical issues." Sources told People that the young lady was still coming to terms with the effects of bullying, which Lovato discussed later on down the road when she became a spokesperson for an anti-bullying campaign.
"I had a really tough time when I was in middle school," the X Factor judge divulged to People. "People would write 'hate petitions' [about me] and send them around to be signed. They'd have CD-bashing parties of my demos. They'd come to my house, stand across the street and yell things."
Yikes. She's now an ambassador for "Mean Stinks," and last year, the New Mexico native made a surprise visit to New York City's Young Women's Leadership School, where she asked students to rise above bullying and paint their pinky fingers blue to symbolize "pinky promising" to fight harassment.
7) Christina Aguilera
"The Voice" judge Christina Aguilera knows a thing or two about critics and celebrity feuds, but the former Mickey Mouse Club member has been battling negativity since childhood. Before she was a singing sensation, she faced mean girls in her hometown who slashed the tires on her family's car and laughed at her talent show performances. A little more than a decade ago, she released "Beautiful," a song about feeling "beautiful no matter what they say."
"I have definitely experienced forms of bullying, and that's why it's so important for me to write songs like 'Beautiful' and 'Fighter,'" she said in an interview last fall.
She doesn't just combat bullying with music, either. When 11-year-old Harper Gruzins received nationwide criticism last year for singing the "worst ever rendition" of "The Star-Spangled Banner," Aguilera sent kudos and encouragement to the young girl in a note: "Harper, you had the courage to sing in front of thousands of people and I applaud you. Keep your head up high and keep trying. You have nothing to be ashamed of."