Victoria Dennis is a 16-year-old singer, actress, songwriter, and entertainer living in Mount Kisco, New York. She began her career modeling in print ads and book covers for Nikon, Toys R Us, and Harlequin Books, and appeared on camera for Nick Jr., Fisher-Price, USPS, and Under Armour. Since then, Dennis discovered her love for music, and has performed at the world-famous Apollo Theater and sang the national anthem at Madison Square Garden. At age 11, she was cast in the Broadway musical production of Little Miss Sunshine and had a co-starring role in the final season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire at age 12. In addition to garnering attention from producers of American Idol and America’s Got Talent, she is currently finishing up her debut EP.
My dream ever since I was a little girl was to be an entertainer. When I was 5, I got into modeling, and also auditioned for a bunch of TV shows and commercials. This is when the bullying began. After booking a pilot from Nick Jr., I was beyond excited. As a second-grader, I thought my friends would be thrilled as well. Some were, but my following days at school included kids name-calling me in the hallways and trying to trip me. Finally, I began having people tell me I should commit suicide. Yes, in second grade!
Almost every day, my mom would see me coming off the school bus in tears. As any parent should, she asked what was wrong. Because this was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like this, my mom was as taken aback as I was. My mom, along with my dad, helped me overcome everything I was telling them. She gave me a motto to follow if any more negativity came my way. It was “SWW,” which stood for “stop, whatever, walk away.” Having this in the back of my mind helped me hold my head a bit higher every day.
Receiving notes encouraging suicide at such a young age, though, was hard to comprehend. Looking back on such a time, I question why second-graders even knew what suicide was (and probably more than their own math homework). I know a lot of kids who have also received these sort of threats and have taken them literally. That just breaks my heart into a million pieces — seeing such innocent lives being taken because of ignorant comments.
Throughout my following years in elementary school, it was an unending cycle of the same old bullying that began in second grade. But it wasn’t until sixth grade that I wanted a change. I felt the need to inspire others, so I wrote my first original song, “You Can’t Hide,” about my bullying experiences. I wanted other kids going through the same thing as I did to know they’re not alone. After putting the song on iTunes [Editor’s Note: It is no longer available on the online music platform], I donated all the proceeds to Stomp Out Bullying, an anti-bullying foundation. I wanted to turn a negative experience into something positive.
Throughout middle school, if I heard somebody else was being bullied, the first thing I did after school was contact them. Whether I knew them or not, I would talk to them and try to ease their pain because I knew what it was like. Now, entering my junior year of high school, I’m still an anti-bullying advocate and continue to help others.
Because of the love and support of my family who took the time to explain that there was nothing wrong with me, and that the bullying came from a place of anger and jealousy, I’m able to say that I have overcome my school-aged bullying. I know not everyone is going to like you, but now, it doesn’t phase me. Over the years, I’ve learned that the less you worry about what other people think, the more you will become aware of your own success and purpose. My message is simple: just be kind to people and spread love.