This week, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star Kylie Jenner announced the #IAmMoreThan Instagram campaign. She's "sharing stories of 6 incredible people who have become heroes in their own way by taking #bullying and turning it into something positive."
(No matter how you feel about the Kardashians, you have to agree it's a pretty cool way for her to use social media, given that she has almost 35 million Instagram followers.)
First up on the incredible person list? Renee DuShane.
#Day1 - Renee DuShane (@ALittlePieceofInsane) a 21 year old college student who was born with #PfiefferSyndrome. Renee described it as “a genetic disorder where the bones in my face don't really know how to fuse correctly so part of my jaw is really small. I had to have surgery when I was born so that my brain could grow." Renee is so strong willed and a super intelligent girl who told me that while growing up she never had many issues with bullying. "I went to school with all the same kids all the way through high school. Right around senior year, I started getting very anxious about having to explain my condition to all of the new people I would meet in college. I started going on Tumblr and saw lots of profiles of positive, confident people" that inspired her to start sharing her photos even with her insecurities. “It's so hard to keep myself from responding to the negative comments," she told me. “Even harder is keeping my friends from getting angry." It's so important to have a great group of friends. Renee also told me about the tattoo she recently got of her life motto: Stay Strong, Always Love. “Loving is always going to be a better place than hating," she shared. Check out Renee's Instagram @ALittlePieceofInsane - she's showing the world #IAmMoreThan my forehead. I love you Renee! She is so awesome & inspiring. Renee taught ME that #IAmMoreThan the negative comments that I read.
A photo posted by King Kylie (@kyliejenner) on
Renee is a remarkable woman, overflowing with positivity and kindness. It's clear why Jenner chose Renee as the first star of her campaign.
The profile line on Renee's Instagram account drew me in immediately: "Because you said I couldn't, I will."
I reached out to Renee to find out more about her life, her condition (Pfeiffer syndrome), bullying, and being a role model for others.
Renee says of her life, "It hasn't been 'easy' ... but it's always been my normal."
Pfeiffer syndrome, she explains, "is a rare genetic mutation affecting the bones of the face (i.e. forehead, mouth, cheek bones, nose) and some joints."
When Renee was a baby and toddler, she had an especially hard time, in part because she had issues with her airways. She had to have many surgeries as a child, and she recently started the process of "further improving the structure of [her] face," including surgery on her forehead to straighten her septum.
Unfortunately, as you can probably imagine, looking different meant Renee was sometimes treated unkindly.
She told me she was probably bullied as a child even more than she realized. She knew she was different, but because she was such an upbeat person, she didn't care.
However, in middle and high school, things got harder. Her feelings about her appearance turned into some pretty serious body image issues. But Renee never stopped fighting.
She says she still gets negative comments on Tumblr and Instagram every now and then, but it's not slowing her down. "I make it a point to focus more on my attitude," Renee says. "I don't want to be the bullied who turns into a bully. I'm more concerned with what I think of me than what others think of me."
As she's gotten older, Renee has gained an even more insightful view on life. "Since starting college, I've learned that nobody is a worse critic than yourself," she says. "I've also learned that educating other people is the best way to deal with [them] being rude."
She thinks most questions come from a place of curiosity. Her way of dealing with it? Let 'em ask. "In that way I gain confidence because I put all my 'flaws' out on the table," she explains. "Confidence is a mindset, it's not something you achieve and then BAM you're okay now. The biggest thing to remember is to surround yourself with positivity (be it people, places, music, etc.) and everyday do your best to be kind to yourself."
Wise words, Renee.
Kylie Jenner hopes that the #IAmMoreThan campaign will encourage her fans to do two things: focus on their positive attributes and stop bullying others.
Renee is thrilled to be a part of it. As a fan of Jenner's, Renee was touched that Jenner saw something special in her.
While she says it's a bit overwhelming having her insecurities plastered all over the headlines, she's so happy to have the message out there. "This isn't specifically about me," she told me. "It's about everyone learning to love themselves. To be a part of that and receive praise and encouragement is so empowering."
As for other people out there who are being bullied ... Renee has some advice.
"I want people to know it gets better/ People grow up, and as they go through life, they see more, and it helps them understand differences.
There are two ways to react to someone who is bullying you. First, you can just let it go, which is a strong thing to do. Second, you can call them out on their behavior, you can let them know what they said or did was not okay.
Whichever way you chose to deal with your situation, never resort to hate. The world might not be a kind place, but it won't do any good to be angry about that."
And to the bullies?
I've been there. I've bullied people (shocking, I know). I've bullied people who are very close to me. That anger that fuels your need to hurt others is not going to go away that easy.
Responding to hate with hate, or trying to make others feel bad, is just going to go full circle, I promise you.
My advice would be to take a hard look at yourself, figure out where the motivation stems from, and do something about it."
Pretty incredible, right? The world could use a lot more people like Renee to model confidence and spread kindness.