Reality TV Celeb Inspires New Movement to Help Bullies Apologize
Little did Reality TV Celeb Krista Stegall know that her call to Betty Hoeffner, president of the international bullying prevention nonprofit, Hey U.G.L.Y. – Unique Gifted Lovable You, would result in an initiative to help bullies reach out to their victims to apologize. But that’s what happened when she called to talk about cyber bullying and her personal story of being a bully.
Upon hearing Stegall’s story, Hoeffner asked permission to use her story to launch “Project Apologize,” a movement where youth and adults reach out to those they have bullied and apologize. On the ProjectApologize.org website, people are urged to do the right thing by apologizing then email their stories to ProjectApologize@heyugly.org where a team of teen advisors will post the most inspiring on the website to motivate others to take this important step in ending and healing bullying.
Stegall was a troubled teen. When she transferred to the junior high school in Opelousas, La. as an 8th Grader, she desperately wanted to fit in with the popular crowd.
On a dare, Stegall began to pass friendly notes to classmate Marc Aymond, a shy and solitary teen. Stegall wrote him notes about wanting to go out with him. They began talking on the phone and Aymond opened up to Stegall, who he came to consider his first girlfriend.
Then Stegall did something she’s regretted ever since. She told Aymond it had all been a joke and she never intended to date him. As Aymond remembers it, she called him a “nerd” and “loser” and said he could never measure up to her actual boyfriend.
“I was dumbfounded and in a complete state of shock,” Aymond said. “It knocked the foundation out from under me.”
Word of the bullying incident spread quickly around the small school. Aymond felt humiliated and hated having to face the other students. Stegall had a much different reaction.
“I felt cool,” she said. “Everyone else thought it was funny.”
Looking back, Stegall realizes she was angry and afraid because her mother was slowly dying and she felt helpless. She acted out by bullying and starting fights, and eventually was expelled. After her mother died, she lived in foster homes until she was emancipated. At the age of 16, Stegall became a mother.
Meanwhile, Aymond said he changed from being a naïve kid to a tougher guy. He hung posters of Rambo in his bedroom. He wore camouflage clothing and stopped talking to other kids.
“I considered suicide and I became a cutter,” Aymond said. “I felt worthless.”
As the years passed, Stegall continuously felt ashamed of the way she treated Aymond. So, at the age of 19, Stegall went back to Opelousas to apologize to Aymond. He was surprised.
“I never expected it to happen in my wildest dreams,” he said. “Something told me she was sincere. I couldn’t imagine why she was there if she didn’t mean it. I accepted her apology.”
Still, Stegall didn’t believe Aymond had really forgiven her and she couldn’t seem to forgive herself. That changed when, in 2001 at the age of 28, she was one of 12 contestants selected for Season 2 of “Big Brother,” a reality TV show airing on CBS. The show centers on intense competition among the participants, who live in the same house. Besides dealing with difficult dynamics in the house, Stegall was the target of cyber bullying by viewers who wanted her kicked off the show.
“The cyber bullying against me was really intense and it helped me realize how much it hurts to be bullied.” explained Stegall. “This intensified my desire to make reparations with Marc. Once you’ve been bullied you understand how deeply it can affect the victim.”
Today, Stegall, who dedicates most of her life to supporting charities, is strong enough to admit her past bullying behavior and to make an ongoing amend to Aymond, who is now her good friend. Aymond, who donates his time teaching martial arts to youth in New Iberia, La., said he can’t explain how their friendship developed, but he knows it’s a deeper friendship because of what they both went through.
“The thought that I was capable of hurting anyone that way is inconceivable and very hard to keep bottled up inside,” confessed Stegall. “Seeking forgiveness was the easy part; the hardest part is forgiving myself. If you’re angry or hurt always remember not to take your pain out on others. Never be a follower and always remember who you really are. If you can do that, somewhere along the way forgiveness will come. Try and live the best life you can and know it is NEVER too late to say I AM SORRY!”
“What happened to me hurt,” Aymond admitted. “But Krista didn’t make me live with the pain. That was something I choose to do. My advice to kids today is that bullies bully kids who are weak. Don’t let anything in life make you weak. I believe everyone has the ability to grow strong. And if you are carrying pain inside of you like I did, seek help. Do not isolate yourself from family and friends. If you don’t have friends, make some or join a club. I got into martial arts when I was 17.”
“We know how hard it is to apologize,” said Hoeffner, who explained how integral apologizing and forgiveness is in their Prevent Bullying Now curriculum. “Having empathy and forgiveness for the bully and for our own self-bullying tendencies is critical to solving the bullying epidemic.”
Hoeffner is the host of Hey U.G.L.Y.’s “Choose To Change Radio Show” which features teen guest DJs who recommend then discuss on-air songs with self-esteem-building and bullying prevention lyrics. Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s song, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” and the rock group, Chicago’s “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry” quite eloquently support the difficulty of apologizing.
Hey U.G.L.Y.’s Prevent Bullying Now curriculum shares with students a quote from best-selling author and spiritual teacher Anthony De Mello, who said, “The two hardest things for a human to say is ’I’m Sorry’ and ’I was wrong’.”
“We hope Krista and Marc’s story will inspire young and old to apologize and stop bullying, Hoeffner concluded.”
For more information visit www.ProjectApologize.org.
- Contact Information
- Betty Hoeffner
- President & Co-founder
- Hey U.G.L.Y. - Unique Gifted Lovable You
- Contact via E-mail
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