Tulsa teenager Anastasia Richardson joined the cheer squad as a high school freshman but quit a semester later after bearing the brunt of bullying among its members.
Her confidence was shaken, and she withdrew socially, not talking to many classmates. Now, the 18-year-old senior at Edison Preparatory School is utilizing social media as a singer and songwriter with a message: Stop bullying.
Sitting in an Edison classroom, a familiar scene for Richardson, she was again the target of bullying. But this time around the setting was fun for the student because it involved production of the music video for her anti-bullying song “I Am Beautiful.”
“It’s kind of surreal in a way,” Richardson said of advocating for bullying victims. “I can’t really find an exact word to describe it.”
She has launched a campaign against bullying called No Not Me to raise awareness and money. Now some classmates even approach Richardson in the halls and ask her for advice on how to deal with a bully. (She recommends telling a counselor or another adult to have them get it to stop.) A portion of the sales of her music go toward the project.
In the video, Richardson picks up a textbook and notebooks from the floor after a bully walks into the classroom and knocks them off her desk.
“Your tongue cuts like a razor with every word you say,” Richardson sings. “Just know before you judge me that God makes no mistakes.”
The 3-minute, 28-second video, viewable on YouTube, was released in November and has garnered more than 9,000 views. Richardson has been featured by The Huffington Post and has done interviews on various radio stations. Her twitter account — @Anastasiamusic1 — has almost 100,000 followers.
“I never really imagined this much coming out at once,” she said.
One bit of online feedback from the video especially has stuck with Richardson. A person commented that they had sung her song to a bully, who then walked away.
“So hearing that is really amazing how it helped them,” Richardson said.
And it’s not just people online who have been moved by her song.
Richardson has noticed a change in her school since the video’s release, which mostly has received positive feedback from classmates. A handful of negative responses also have surfaced, but she said that’s typical of any music.
The song is co-written with a Nashville producer and songwriter. Richardson said the pair were brainstorming ideas when they settled on bullying, given Richardson’s experiences and the relative dearth of songs on the topic. They crafted the chorus to “I Am Beautiful” and went from there.
“It was a really cool process,” Richardson said.
She also enjoyed the process of making the video with schoolmates who now have become friends.
Sophomore Alexandria Martinez plays the bully who knocks Richardson’s books to the floor. Martinez said it was a bit odd playing that part, having been bullied herself.
Sophomore Abigail Connor, another bully in the production, appreciates that the video portrays a positive message. It’s a stark contrast with many of today’s popular music videos featuring lyrics devoid of meaning wrapped in flashing lights and twerking, she said.
Connor also has been buoyed by the online response and by those who have been encouraged to stand up to bullies.
“When I was being bullied, I didn’t have the courage to do that,” Connor said, adding that she “just kind of took it” until she was able to find a gap to slip away from the latest encounter.
Freshman Sage Wright, another video actor who has been bullied in real life, said she has heard the song played in a classroom during school with people singing along. That sort of response is just this beginning.
“We’re trying to spread this as much as possible,” Wright said, “and apparently it’s going nationwide.”