Emily-Anne Rigal takes on bullying as Founder and Director of WeStopHate.org, a non-profit program dedicated to raising self-esteem and confidence in teens through social media platforms. She is creating a new generation of “boppers” – teens from various locations around the world dedicated to end bullying by raising self-esteem. The message: people who are happy with themselves won’t put others down.
As a young girl growing up in Virginia, Emily-Anne Rigal was bullied daily by her classmates. Over time the environment became so bad that “I stopped feeling like I had value, and I lost a lot of my self-respect and lost my self-esteem,” Rigal says. Attending a new school gave Rigal the chance to be herself and thrive. She became an active user of social media and discovered a way to use the medium to spread a positive message and create a solution about the problem of bullying.
At 16, Rigal founded WeStopHate, a non-profit program dedicated to raising self-esteem and confidence in teens through social media platforms. The program states that stopping bullying and helping to raise “teen-esteem” means putting an end to the lifelong, painful consequences that each victim suffers. The message: people who are happy with themselves won’t put others down.
“When a young person is being bullied, they can come on our Facebook, or on our YouTube page and chat with other kids who are in the same position that they are, and I think that sense of unity really helps them bond,” Rigal says.
Rigal has been honored by several organizations for her work, including a TeenNick HALO ward from Nickelodeon and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Lady Gaga, herself a firm supporter of the anti-bullying message, has called Emily-Anne her “hero.”
Toy company Mattel has also joined Rigal’s efforts, using their enormously popular Monster High® brand to further spread the message of acceptance and self-esteem. Their back-to-school program at Walmart encourages girls to “celebrate and embrace the unique qualities that make them ‘perfectly imperfect’” through specially created online content.
For now, the Columbia University freshman with the signature pink bow headband is still writing under her online username “Schmiddlebopper.“ She continues to spread her message of self-esteem and acceptance.
“My heart goes out to those struggling with self-acceptance,” Rigal says. “I believe it is my life’s work to help others turn self-hatred into self-love,” she says.