The tragic wave of suicides among young people who have been targeted because of their sexuality has prompted several celebs to speak out against bullying.
In recent weeks, teens such as Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and 13-year-old Seth Walsh have taken their lives after enduring taunts and humiliating incidents regarding their sexual orientation. Blogger Perez Hilton and several gay activists have spoken out against teen bullying, and columnist Dan Savage has started the YouTube channel "It Gets Better" to offer support, urging LGBT youth not to resort to suicide for relief from vicious teasing.
A diverse range of celebs also have blasted bullying and implored young people who have suffered abuse at the hands of their peers to maintain hope.
Media personality and former MTV VJ La La Vazquez teamed up with R&B star Ciara for a YouTube
target="_blank">videooffering support to young people affected by bullying.
"If you're gay, bisexual, transgender, I know it can be tough in high school dealing with people who might not understand who you are,"
Vazquez says in the clip. "We just want to let you know that it does get better. We were in high school once, and we know how mean people can be who just don't understand certain things."
"You gotta know that your life is in your hands; you determine your destiny," Ciara adds. "You're in total control. You determine where things can go — where they can start, where they can stop. It starts with you, and it really does get better."
Jay Manuel from "America's Next Top Model" also made a
target="_blank">video, explaining to teens that regardless of their current situation, the future is bright.
"I'm 38, and I can tell you, it does get better," he says. "It's not easy in high school; I don't think anybody has it easy.
"People are gonna call you names, they're gonna make you feel bad about yourself, but at the end of the day, we go off and do our own things, and you really do control your destiny. When someone calls you a name and they call you gay and they call you queer or whatever they call you, remember that at the end of the day, you can go off and be a success all on your own."
Hilton had been tweeting several high-profile names in recent days to get involved in the "It Gets Better" initiative, and Good Charlotte rocker Joel Madden responded with a link to the band's anti-suicide video "Hold On." Madden also pledged to make a personal video message.
"One Tree Hill" actress Sophia Bush also took to Twitter to express her concern about the ongoing bullying issues among young people.
"Anyone out there who thinks being a bully makes you cool? Wake up. It makes you a LOSER," tweeted Bush, who created the Twitter account
target="_blank">@MissUSethWalshin honor of the late teen. "Cool means doing good things for people. ALL people."
Openly gay talk show host Ellen DeGeneres maintained that bullying is an issue that affects more than just the young people lobbing insults and getting hurt in the melee, and urged everyone who is able to make a difference to get involved.
"One life lost in this senseless way is tragic. Four lives lost is a crisis," DeGeneres
target="_blank">bloggedThursday (September 30), referencing the suicides of Clementi and Walsh as well as Texas teen Asher Brown and 15-year-old Billy Lucas from Indiana.
"And these are just the stories we hear about. How many other teens have we lost? How many others are suffering in silence? Being a teenager and figuring out who you are is hard enough without someone attacking you.
"My heart is breaking for their families, their friends and for a society that continues to let this happen. These kids needed us. We have an obligation to change this," she continues. "There are messages everywhere that validate this kind of bullying and taunting and we have to make it stop. We can't let intolerance and ignorance take another kid's life."
DeGeneres closes her note with a sentiment echoed by many other
celebs: "Things will get easier, people's minds will change, and you should be alive to see it."