For years, she was the victim of cyber-bullying. Now, after relentless tears, ridicule, hate and even a high school transfer, Rochester native Jillian Jensen is turning her pain into something positive by speaking out against bullying.
On Thursday, November 29, Jensen will perform her music and speak at the nation’s largest anti-bullying event in Lowell, MA at the Tsongas Arena. Over 5,000 students from 145 schools in New England will be attending the Stand Up 2012 conference.
“I’m really excited to be involved with this event,” said Jensen. “It’s going to be amazing.”
The bullying started when Jensen was in seventh grade. After speaking out when one of her classmates was doing something wrong, she bore the brunt of both verbal and physical harassment. When she decided to transfer schools, the bullying didn’t stop. She was then harassed electronically on the Internet.
“I made the right decision in a difficult situation,” Jensen said of the initial incident which led to her bullying. “It was really difficult to deal with.”
Still, even through her darkest moments, Jensen found a safe haven in her music.
“I stuck to music like glue,” she said. “I used it as my way out even though people were trying to rip it out of my life. I know music has literally saved my life in so many different ways.”
Jensen, who was a member of the four-member pop group The Varsity Girls, is possibly most well known for her audition on FOX’s “The X Factor” where she sang an emotionally charged rendition of Jessie J’s song “Who You Are.” Her performance evoked tears from the audience and a newfound awareness for bullying.
“When I finally had the chance to sing on national television and stand in front of the judges, I wanted to make sure it was known that for anyone who is going through bullying that there is a way out,” she said. “Honestly, it’s still crazy to even think about. I didn’t picture it being as impacting as it was. It’s absolutely unreal.”
After wowing America during her audition, Jensen spent several weeks on “The X Factor” before she was sent home prior to the live shows starting. Despite the elimination, she has been keeping extremely busy both with her music and with her anti-bullying campaign.
“None of what happened to me was fair, but now I have the opportunity because of the negative experience to turn it into something positive,” said Jensen. “This is something to be thankful for and something I’m proud of. I think anyone can let a negative experience overcome them, but I refuse to let that happen to me.”
On Friday, November 30, the day after attending the Stand Up conference, Jensen’s new music video “Perfect Harmony” will debut on YouTube. Then on Sunday, December 2, she will be performing and speaking at the Boston Music Awards in front of some of the industry’s most important people.
The once bullied girl now stands on stage as a courageous woman.
“When I was being bullied, I felt weak like the caterpillar,” Jensen said. “Now I feel like the butterfly. Now I have this beautiful opportunity to fly, so to speak. I have the ability to touch others and do what I love. It’s the most unbelievable feeling.”
By Katy Fitzpatrick