What is your name, age, and location?
Emily-Anne Rigal, 17, Virginia.
What is your profession?
Officially, I am a high school student graduating in Spring 2012. I am also an Internet Personality known as “Schmiddlebopper,” and the founder of WeStopHate, a nonprofit program raising “teen-esteem” (self-esteem in teens) through online videos and social media.
What are you studying in school and what degrees are you planning to get?
Although I am currently in still in high school, I plan to study in communications and media studies in college.
Who or what inspired you to start the WeStopHate?
In elementary school, I was teased for being overweight. Each morning, I crossed my fingers in hopes that it would not be a day when my teacher would let my class pick our own partners because I rarely had someone to pair up with. It was mortifying, leading me to eventually switch schools. Throughout middle and high school, my self-confidence gradually increased. The more I accepted myself, the happier I became. At seventeen, I now know the benefits of embracing who I am, but memories are made to last – even the painful ones have a purpose. So my heart goes out to young people struggling with self-acceptance. I believe it is my life’s work to help others turn self-hatred into self-love. To do this, I founded WeStopHate.org, which is now a grassroots movement changing the way teens view themselves. WeStopHate focuses on teen-esteem as a way to combat bullying because we believe teens who are happy with themselves won’t put others down. I spearheaded WeStopHate by creating videos telling my personal stories. By exposing my inner thoughts and feelings, I put myself out there subject to ridicule. However, instead of criticizing me, teens respected my authenticity and responded to my honesty. It was as if there was a piece of me in each viewer. Having been the first to put myself out there, I led by example, and now many other teens have followed in my footsteps.
What do you enjoy the most about your site WeStopHate?
I love how WeStopHate is for teens by teens. Peer pressure is typically a source for negativity, but WeStopHate has proven that teens have the power to help other teens, and this leads us to believe that peer pressure can also be a source for good. Much of WeStopHate‘s success can be contributed to our social media strategy because since we are teens, not only is WeStopHate the voice of teens, but we exist where teens live: online. Furthermore, WeStopHate uses the power of digital media for good by allowing it to shape the way we see ourselves and how others see us, consequently pre-empting bullies.
What would be your dream job?
The common thread in all the projects I choose to take on has always been empowerment; I believe every single person on this Earth deserves to have the confidence to go after their dreams – whatever those dreams may be. I have an independent personality and entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, my dream job would allow me to focus on getting that message across to as many people as I can, while also having the freedom to make my own choices and stay true to myself.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
I feel extremely lucky to have such incredible mentors, each playing a significant role in shaping the person I am today. This being said, I would consider Jess Weiner the most influential because her confidence in me changed how I saw myself and continues to be a major source of inspiration. I value Jess’s perspective second to none, and I admire her passion, energy, and zest for life. Not only is Jess my mentor, she is my role model.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I don’t know where I will be ten years from now. My hope is that I will spend the next ten years following my heart, my intuition, and my passions. And I strongly believe that by following these three things, where I end up ten years from now will be exactly where I am meant to be.
WeStopHate on Facebook
Emily-Anne’s website: emilyannerigal.com
Follow Emily-Anne on Twitter
– Interview by Elena Rossini