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10.15.2019

Erin Eliopulos and the New Faces of Freedom Talk Bullying Prevention

I  n honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, we spoke to model and activist, Erin Eliopulos about her campaign/foundation, Diversity 101. Eliopulos spoke to a handful of the new faces at Freedom about their experiences with bullying, self-love, and how they’ve worked to overcome it.

Erin Eliopulos

For those who don’t know – how would you define Diversity 101?

Diversity 101 is an anti-bullying scholarship foundation that my sister and I started in 2016. It’s to raise awareness about bullying and give back to kids who need it most!

When did you realize the need for Diversity 101? What pushed you to create this platform/foundation?

I think I realized the need for something like Diversity 101 years ago…back when I myself was getting bullied. It didn’t come to a solid idea until after I graduated high school. Definitely being bullied myself is what pushed me to create this foundation!

What have you found the most rewarding since starting your foundation?

I think the most rewarding experience so far is being able to go back to my hometown and speak in the schools that I grew up in. And give back to kids that were in the same position as I was back then. I think it’s awesome because when I was in high school I used to think it was so cool when older ‘kids’ spoke at our schools and I found it to be much more relatable so that’s what I hope the kids that I speak to think as well!

How has your experience as a model shaped your views on bullying and self-love?

My experience with modeling has definitely made me realize that it’s so so SO important to put yourself first and accept yourself for you are! It’s made me a more loving person because as I fall more in love with myself, I find myself to be more loving to other people as well. It’s made me realize that sometimes bullies are just insecure people who are projecting their problems on others.

How have your views on the industry has changed since you started your career? 

I used to think everything was sunshine and daisies. And I definitely viewed the industry in black and white. Now that I’ve grown up while working as a model and I’m now an adult I see that, like many things in this world, there is so much more to the industry and it’s not all good! There are so many messed up things that go on behind closed doors, probably like all industries, so it’s important to stand your ground and speak out when you see something that’s not right.

What advice would you give to young and aspiring models who are trying to find their place within the industry? 

Some advice would be to just never lose sight of who you are. Always stand your ground and go with your gut. The most important thing you have going for you is that you’re YOU. Never let anyone try to change that or water you down. Just keep on working hard and this one might should a little cliche, but don’t give up!

What’s the importance of community in your circle? How have you worked to improve it and promote the people within it?

Community and trust in my circle are SO important! My friend group is very open about everything which I think is also very crucial to healthy relationships and I think because we mostly all have the same mindsets on most things, we all believe that people aren’t stepping stones to get to where you want to be. We’re all very supportive of each other, and if one of us wins, we all win!

Amanda Sebastian

Have you ever been bullied at school?

 No, I have not, but I have witnessed others being bullied around me. It’s really sad.

Have you ever received negative comments on your Instagram pictures? how does that make you feel?

I am from a small town, so when I post my work photos of the different modeling jobs I am doing on Instagram, I constantly get judged or questioned because they do not understand the fashion world.

What could Instagram/ social media do to help with cyberbullying?

Instagram just turned off an option today where you are now not able to view people who you are following likes  & follows etc. so that is a really good step on keeping it more private. If they could hide comments- that would be amazing, and I think would save a lot of kids from negativity & hurtful words people say on photos.

If you were ever bullied who would you turn to for help & support?

My family & friends have my back 100% in everything I do but I have thick skin and can stick up for myself usually.

What is some advice that you would give to someone struggling with bullying?

There is a Dr. Seuss quote I love & live by:

“BE WHO YOU ARE AND SAY WHAT YOU FEEL, BECAUSE THOSE WHO MIND DON’T MATTER, AND THOSE WHO MATTER DON’T MIND”

 Has anyone ever made fun of you because of the way you look?

I am very tall and skinny and have been this way my whole life, so I get jokes here and there, but I don’t let it get to me and I love my body.

 Do you have anyone at school that you can report bullying to?

We can talk to the school counselor.

Where do you think bullying stems from?

 Lack of confidence.

When somebody says a mean or negative comment about you- how do you handle it?

 I just brush it off and shut it down right away.

Brittany Yevoli

Have you ever been bullied at school?

 Yes, mostly in subtler ways 

Have you ever received negative comments on your Instagram pictures? How does that make you feel?

Yes, it makes me feel uncomfortable and super self-conscious because it is seen by the public.

What could Instagram/ social media do to help with cyberbullying?

They should put more resources into a more comprehensive check for when comments are flagged and how to censor things. 

 If you were ever bullied who would you turn to for help & support?

My sister. 

What are some advice that you would give to someone struggling with bullying?

 Remember that the person doing to bullying is doing it because they are self-conscious and not confident themselves and want to put you down to make themselves feel better. Don’t let anyone steel your thunder! 

Do you have anyone at school that you can report bullying to?

Yes but often students feel embarrassed to ask for help. 

How common is bullying?

Bullying happens in all forms and to all people.

Where do you think bullying stems from?

I think people bully others when they are not happy with themselves and by putting other people down, they think they will feel better themselves. 

When somebody says a mean or negative comment about you- how do you handle it?

I remind myself that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. I try to remain confident in my true self and try to ignore the comment. It can be very difficult and hurtful at times but staying true to oneself and embracing who you are takes a lot of strength. Spend time with people who don’t drag you down. And if you find yourself feeling self-conscious all the time, maybe re-evaluate who you spend your time with. 

Hailey Beth

Have you ever been bullied at school?

Yes of course! I feel like everyone gets bullied at school at least once in their lifetime.

Have you ever received negative comments on your Instagram pictures? how does that make you feel?

Yes, my Instagram photos occasionally get negative comments. It never feels good but I delete negative responses and block them from my posts 

What could Instagram/ social media do to help with cyberbullying?

I think that Instagram does a pretty good job at preventing cyberbullying. I know that they look for keywords and things like that to help reduce bullying.

 If you were ever bullied who would you turn to for help & support?

Whenever I was bullied as a child I would turn to my mom for help. She always had the best advice. 

 What is some advice that you would give to someone struggling with bullying?

Some advice I would give to kids struggling with bullying is to surround yourself with good supportive people. Also, try to be around your family as much as possible, they are so important. 

 Has anyone ever made fun of you because of the way you look?

I have been made fun of for the way I look my whole life, people were always telling me I was too pale or too skinny in high school. The older I get the more okay I am with the things that make me different.

Where do you think bullying stems from?

I think that bullying stems from insecurities the bully has. People who want to put others down usually have self-turmoil. 

 When somebody says a mean or negative comment about you- how do you handle it?

When someone says something negative or mean about me I usually ignore it and get on with my day. I choose not to acknowledge the negativity of others. 

Lily Savage

Have you ever been bullied at school?

Yes. Growing up, I was always a positive and optimistic child, yet I dealt with a large amount of bullying in elementary school. I had many natural tendencies to fall outside the typical interests or friend groups. I was considered a “nerdy art kid”, and I always kept a very small number of friends – no more than 4 or 5. I suppose these were the main reasons I was targeted by more popular kids in my grades. In high school, however, I no longer had those friends, because we all went to different schools at that point. Fortunately, I found my tendency to express acceptance towards others helped me grow a brand-new group of friends and allowed me to develop more confidence in social interactions. I rarely ever experienced any form of bullying in high school, apart from small arguments here and there with close friends. It took a lot of the stress away from the overall concept of “high school drama” and allowed me to truly enjoy my four years there. I’ve always tried to help people through their own experiences in dealing with bullying, and I try to offer any form of support I can, because something as simple as a friendly face was always something that helped me when I was younger and felt alone. I always smile at people as I pass them, even if the gesture isn’t returned, because I grew up being taught that the key to success is holding your ground and doing whatever makes you feel confident; and, personally, making someone’s day even slightly better than before with something as simple as a smile makes me feel confident in overcoming whatever negative impact the effects of bullying have ever had on my self-esteem.

Have you ever received negative comments on your Instagram pictures? How does that make you feel?

Yes, typically referring to my gap. I’ve been told that I should get braces; I’ve also been told that I’m unhealthy looking, or that I should change how I present myself. People come up with new stuff every day, but I don’t ever take it to heart, given there is always going to be something I can fix or change about myself, and the degree to which I find it necessary to do so is a choice I have full power over, and can choose to change myself in any way, at any time, on my own accord – without the help of anonymous online comments and critiques.
 
What could Instagram/social media do to help with cyberbullying?

 Lately, there has been a huge movement emphasizing the importance of standing up against bullying and assisting others when they need help. However, given that is not always the case, people should have a means of receiving the support and resources they need when experiencing bullying, especially as anonymous as online bullying is. Cyberbullying can affect anyone and is the hardest to prevent or receive help for when it occurs. Though there is the “report” function on major social media outlets, there needs to be a means of accountability when cyberbullying occurs. One probable solution could be more effective management of accounts that are sources of bullying in the community. For example, a catalyst of anti-bullying is the improvement of the “report” function, such that it actually alerts the safety team of possible cyberbullying occurrences (and initiates the temporary suspension of the perpetrator’s account). Another solution could be pop-up ads that have “Yes/No” surveys asking users if they have experienced bullying, and if so, where to go to receive support and take the necessary steps to stop the negative interactions before they grow too toxic.

If you were ever bullied who would you turn to for help & support?

I would turn to a close friend or adult that I trusted for help. If you are experiencing bullying, please alert an adult or figure of authority that could provide a means of stopping the bullying.
 
What is some advice that you would give to someone struggling with bullying?

Find what makes you believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone take that away from you or make you feel bad for believing in.

Has anyone ever made fun of you because of the way you look?

Yes, my gap specifically has been a subject of bullying for years. However, you can only change so much of yourself before you start to lose your own recognition of your image, so most things are best to let go.

Do you have anyone at school that you can report bullying to?

Counselors and friends. Two very important and useful tools in any recovery process after experiencing bullying.
 
How common is bullying?

Bullying occurs every day, and much closer to home than you may expect. It can occur in many forms, including bullying within friend groups, which is harder to detect in many cases. It occurs anywhere from schools to workplaces to online platforms. How we identify and work to stop more harm from bullying should be a main priority in schools and in our family values.

Where do you think bullying stems from?

Bullying is often a product of jealousy, hatred, or other forms of bigotry towards another person or group of people. It stems from people’s anger at their own lack of whatever they may feel insecure about. Overall, insecurities, jealousy, and the desire for social acceptance is what stems the growth of bullying in most forms.

When somebody says a mean or negative comment about you- how do you handle it?

By ignoring it and listening to the positive insights of other people. One voice should never overshadow the existence of others’ opinions.

Torin Ashtun

Have you ever been bullied at school?

Yes, I was bullied in grade school for my “untamed” Afro. 

 Have you ever received negative comments on your Instagram pictures? how does that make you feel?

Of course. Those comments naturally made me question myself and change how I portrayed myself on Instagram.

 What could Instagram/ social media do to help with cyberbullying?

Instagram could create communities on Instagram for individuals who struggle with being social.

 If you were ever bullied who would you turn to for help & support?

I honestly, like many others, wouldn’t turn to anyone.

 What is some advice that you would give to someone struggling with bullying?

If you aren’t comfortable with looking for help in those around you; try journaling your experiences to help yourself open up.

 Has anyone ever made fun of you because of the way you look?

Yes! All the way from my masculine jawline, to my thin figure.

 How common is bullying?

For many, bullying starts the moment someone wakes up to the moment they fall asleep.

Where do you think bullying stems from?

Not being at peace with one’s mental state.

 When somebody says a mean or negative comment about you- how do you handle it?

I honestly just delete it. Just how they thought it, typed it & then sent it; I can read it, delete it & then forget it.

 

CREDITS:

PHOTOGRAPHER:  Taylor Rainbolt

CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Lucy Quick

WARDROBE: Gabi Ballow

HAIRSTYLIST: Lovette Candice Ashley Gwaltney

MAKEUP ARTISTS: Wendy Lux + Ciara Maccaro

Stay tuned to Milk for more artists we love. 

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