Are the words to “Friday” still stuck in your head? Us, too. (That tune practically defines catchy!) But that’s not the only part of the viral song sensation that’s had a lasting impact. Meet singer Benni Cinkle, one of the video’s stars. Fans know her as “That Girl in Pink,” aka the girl with the awkward dance moves. But Benni took the attention and funneled it into a powerful cyberbullying movement—learn more about her foundation and e-book below:
Q: You have such a unique story for how That Girl In Pink came about. What gave you the inspiration to take something that was originally negative (being bullied online) and spin it on its head to creating something so good and helpful?
A: Well, it was actually a fan. He said, “Sure you have all this attention because you were in the Friday video, but what are you doing to help Japan?”
It was right after the Japan earthquake, and I thought he was just saying that to be mean, but then I thought, “Well, why don’t I do something? Since I have all this attention, maybe I can get a few people to donate.” So I decided to do a little flash mob dance at the mall. I invited a bunch of kids from the elementary school to join in. I did it to show them that just because people were making fun of my dancing, I wasn’t afraid to keep dancing…especially for a good cause.
That led to a walk for Cystic Fibrosis, which ended up going worldwide because fans in 14 other countries decided to walk with me, virtually. Together we raised thousands of dollars and a lot of awareness. It was pretty awesome.
Q: How did you develop your idea to create a foundation?
A: That came out of the Japan donations because we needed a place for people to donate, but then it grew from there. When all these kids started asking me for advice on how to handle their cyber-bullies, I wrote my little e-book and I knew I would be doing more to help.
My long-term goal is to go to law school and help create legislature that makes the world a better place for kids, so having a non-profit to do all my work through just sort of made sense.
Q: What was the process of writing your e-book like, and what are your greatest hopes for getting it out into the world?
A: Writing the e-book was sort of easy because I kept it short and to the point. It’s just 5 tips on how I handled my cyber-bullies. It’s free on my website because I think all kids should have a resource when it comes to knowing what things are like online. My hope is that it helps all kids deal with things that happen online and that they don’t take anything too seriously.
Q: We imagine you must hear from a lot of teens who have struggled with online bullying. How do you handle the emotional side of connecting with teens who are in pain?
A: Actually, sometimes it still gets to me. I hear from kids all around the world that feel like they are all alone and have no one to talk to. I know that sometimes what they are going through might seem overwhelming, but my goal is just to help them keep it in perspective.
Sometimes they just need to find the good in something. I really believe that there’s always a bright side, but sometimes finding it is hard. It doesn’t take their pain away, but if I get them to see the good and help them focus on it, then their pain is less than it was before. My goal is to keep kids from a state of despair.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being a teen social entrepreneur?
A: I guess my challenge is finding the time to do everything I want to do. I recently visited a few schools and gave my anti-bullying presentation (called “Don’t Just Stand There”) but I also go to regular school, so keeping up with my own classes and homework was challenging. There are so many kids asking me to come to their schools all across the country, and I want to, but it’s just impossible…and that makes me sad.
I hate saying no to them.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a teen social entrepreneur?
A: Knowing that I’ve affected someone’s life. There are so many kids that say because of me they see things differently, or because of my song, they were able to get through something. It’s really an amazing feeling to know that somehow I helped them.
Q: How can our readers get involved and support the work you’re doing through That Girl in Pink?
A: They can sign up to get info on my website: www.ThatGirlinPink.org .
Q: What piece of advice or insight do you have for girls who want to impact the world like you?
A: Get involved in something you believe in. Even if it’s just at a small level, because you never know—your small contribution might make the world of difference.
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