Speaker: Laura Austin
Please share your Name, Title, Company, and where you are based out of.
Laura Austin: Hello, my name is Laura Austin. I'm a full-time freelance photographer and I'm based out of Los Angeles, California.
What age were you and how you were bullied?
Laura Austin: I think I was probably 12 years old when I was bullied the most. I lived in a very small town and an older popular boy asked me to send him a topless photo. This was like the beginning of the Internet being a factor in kids' lives. And I sent him a photo. And the next day I woke up, and he sent it out in a mass email to most of the kids in my school, their parents. My teachers got it, my step dad got it, and from there on out I was deemed a bad influence. My best friend's parents wouldn't let them hang out with me anymore. Teachers would talk to me and I feel sorry for me because I was a good kid. I was a straight a student. I was one of the top athletes, but because of this, I was, it was "my fault." The boy who sent it out? No repercussions whatsoever, but it was my fault. And like during track practice I would go and do practice, and come back to the locker room. I opened up my locker and my clothes weren't in there anymore. The girls took them out and threw them in the dirt. So I'd have to walk back and find my clothes because apparently it was "my fault." And it was messed up that the boy who asked me for this photo and then spread it around didn't, he was the cool guy. It was "my fault." So I think that was the worst time for bullying for me.
How did the bullying impact you?
Laura Austin: So how did bullying impact me? Like I said, the girls who were, who I thought were, my friends in middle school, I think everyone just wants to be accepted and so once this happens, the girls who I thought were my best friends just turned on me. They would make jokes as I passed them in the hallway, and would just be so mean to me. And so I think as an adult I'm very scared to trust females just because I feel like they'll just turn on me at any second. And also with men, I guess it's just hard for me to trust people. Someone who I sent this photo to particularly in confidence, turned around and used it against me. And just realizing that in that situation the female is to blame, the female is going to get the brunt of it, and gosh I feel sorry for any female who's dealt with any sort of thing in this situation in which you're just trying to be liked and that has a very dark turn. So yeah, I have trust issues with people now I think.
What would you say to your younger self now to give you hope that you will be ok and a success?
Laura Austin: Wow, this one is such a beautiful question, like what would I say to my younger self to know that it will be okay? I think for me, due to the amount of bullying I had as a kid, that just gave me fuel to be better and better and prove everyone wrong that I wasn't what they wanted to label me as. That just led to my success in that I wanted to prove that I wasn't this one thing they were labeling me as. Gosh, I feel for all the kids, like I can't even imagine kids going through this age of dealing with social media. I experienced the very beginning of it just through email, but with Snapchat and Instagram, gosh, I can't even imagine. I feel for any female who is subjected to trying to be liked, and being put in the situation where the female is the culprit, like the culprit. So gosh, I would tell my younger version of myself just, it's gonna be okay. You're going to be stronger than you could have ever imagined, and the stuff might force you to be that way. And to any young female now, don't feel pressured to impress people. Don't feel peer pressure to do something you're uncomfortable with because I know the repercussions of that. So much love to any young girl who's growing up right now! You be you, and prove them wrong of the labels they'll subscribe to you, because I've probably become more successful than I would have ever imagined because I was trying to prove them wrong. So that's my two cents.