By KEVIN TAN
It’s pretty obvious that Emma Louise Liang, 23, doesn’t like talking about secondary school. The usually bubbly model/singer’s face immediately turns sombre at the mention of it.
For her, secondary school was a period of isolation and constant bullying, brought about simply because of her mixed-parentage and weight issues.
“Because I was fat, I felt like I had a special ‘spotlight’ on me,” she said. “My schoolmates would tease me because of my weight. They often called me ‘fat white girl’,” said Emma, who is Eurasian.
The verbal abuse caused her to isolate herself from classmates and even her friends, and her self-esteem plummeted.
“The bullying made me very unhappy about going to school. I hated it. I was being treated as if I wasn’t normal,” she said.
Having almost no friends to talk to in school, Emma only had her parents to confide in but it was still a difficult time for her as her parents aren’t always around, and her teachers didn’t help either.
“I only had one or two friends I could talk to, but they were the type of friends who were afraid to be seen making friends with me or even talking to me. So I became a loner without wanting to.
“I had my parents, of course, but it’s not like they could be there for me when I’m at school,” she said.
In Form Three, Emma decided to dedicate herself to losing weight, driven to prove to her bullies that there’s more to her than what they see on the surface.
“I started realising there were more people interested in being friends with me! The bullying slowly stopped, and I started getting more attention. I was even given a ‘Prettiest Girl’ award that year.”
Despite her new-found popularity, Emma stuck to the friends who had stood by her throughout her weight issues. Until today, she still carries the emotional scars cause by the words of the “superficial” schoolmates who had teased her.
“Those feelings never really went away,” she said. “I still often feel like there is something wrong with me, even though I know there isn’t.”
Just a month ago, Emma lent her voice to the R.AGE Against Bullying campaign by singing on the anti-bullying anthem Keep On Keepin’ On, written and performed by local R&B star Liang.
The song has been played regularly on Red FM, and it includes a special message by Australian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, “the man with no limbs”.
Emma added: “If you’re being bullied, the song is there to encourage you to keep staying strong, and keep moving on. I regret thinking that I was alone and no one could help. You might feel that way, but you really aren’t alone in this.”
If you’ve been a victim of bullying, or you want to support the campaign against bullying, go to RAGEAgainstBullying.com. R.AGE Against Bullying is supported by UNICEF, Befrienders, Childline Malaysia, Help International School, StarRFM and Churp Churp. YES is the telco sponsor.