It all started with an eyeliner pencil and an idea. Lauren Brocious was a teenager in Virginia when she created her viral “#labels” video. In the video, Lauren writes negative words across her face with eyeliner like “ugly”, “loser” and “trash” and then wipes them away and writes positive words like “happy” and “love”. The point of the video is to showcase the negative effects of bullying and how liberating it is to break free of labels.
Lauren herself was bullied throughout her time in school and created the video to raise awareness of the issue. After her “#labels” video went viral Lauren decided to use her platform to actively stop bullying in schools and create social change. At the age of eighteen she started a non-profit charity that targets bullying in Title 1 schools. She took her negative experiences and turned them into inspiration and hopes to continue to spread her anti-bullying message nationwide.
College: Virginia Commonwealth University
Majors: Marketing and Public Relations
Expected Graduation: December 2020
Why did you decide to start creating anti-bullying videos?
I decided to make the video “#labels” because I wanted to let everyone know that life will get better. People’s words can hurt but you can’t let hate defeat you. You have to believe in yourself and stay true to who you are as a person. You define you.
Over my life, I struggled with bullying. Even though I was an honors student, Class President and an athlete in high school, I struggled with bullying from students, parents and teachers. Because I was different and because I wasn’t scared to stand out, I was an automatic target for bullying.
Bullying is a very real thing and I think even with all of the prevention programs we have, with the increase of social media, people can say words without thinking about them. My senior year, I found out the person behind a hate website about me was my best friend.
How did your life change after you created your viral “#labels” video on YouTube?
My life has changed so much since “#labels.” I’ve been able to talk to so many people and hear their stories. I’ve been able to open the discussion about bullying and mental health among parents, teachers and students.
After the video, I got a lot of backlash and ended up learning that I have chronic depression and anxiety. I’ve been able to get stronger and make lots of self-improvements as well as help others cope with their mental health and helped me get a thicker skin with bullying.
Why did you decide to target bullying in Title 1 schools?
Even though I believe that bullying isn’t just specific to Title 1 schools, public, or private schools, I decided to start off targeting Title 1 schools because I believe that everyone should be educated on bullying. It doesn’t matter about the income, it matters that kids, staff and parents are educated about bullying and the effects that it has on kids.
What advice do you have for other ambitious women?
My advice is to never worry about what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself. The way to be successful is to follow your heart and give it everything you have. Literally you can achieve anything with hard work and never giving up. Also, never let your failures get you down. When you fail, it’s just another reason to get up and try again. Our failures do not define us. They help shape us. You Define You.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date? Was there a specific moment where you saw your hard work pay off?
My biggest achievement would be seeing the lives I’ve changed. I’ve had people message me and tell me that my messages have stopped them from committing suicide. Parents have come up to me and have told me that I’ve made it easier to open up the conversation about bullying. It’s one of the most rewarding things to hear someone say “you saved my life.” I feel like my dreams have come true with helping save others' lives.
What are your goals and priorities post-graduation?
I would love to work for a company doing communications but what I would ultimately love is to continue my motivational speaking and to keep changing lives. I’m planning to move to Texas and to pursue my Master’s degree in Communications.
What is the key impact that you hope your non-profit makes on society?
My hope is to make adults and kids more aware of the effects of bullying. I want to help build people’s self esteem and to make people understand that their words will take a toll on people. You never know what someone’s going through so always keep that in mind.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Confident, Outgoing, Motivated, Empathetic and an Alpha Xi.
Jillian James is a senior at the University of Central Florida. She is majoring in Writing and Rhetoric and minoring in Mass Communication (because apparently you can’t minor in Beyoncé studies). Her favorite food is free because she is a college student and the two loves of her life are Ben and Jerry (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame). If she’s not writing or reading she is probably watching The Office or waiting in line at Starbucks. She loves to show off her dance moves in “inappropriate” places like the grocery store. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Jillianrosej, where she frequently posts things that make people think that she has her life together.