A Kardashian has chosen a new person to keep up with, and she's speaking out about bullying.

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.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared here with permission.

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.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared with permission.

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.

Photo of Renee from Instagram, shared with permission.

"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."


A photo posted by Renee (@alittlepieceofinsane) on

And to the bullies?

"Dear 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.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Best Friends
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Peach was just a kitten when Chris Henderson fell head over heels for her. He had recently moved from Scotland to Houston, and the whole city was under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chris was waiting for his fiancé Emma's visa to come through so she could join him, and he was feeling a bit lonely. He thought perhaps a pet might help with that. When he found Peach on Best Friends Animal Society's website, he was struck by her.

"There was just something unusual about her coat, and she looked pretty adorable," Chris said.

Best Friends

A few days later, he met Peach at her foster home and the rest, as they say, is history. After he adopted her, he was grateful to have learned about the kitten's habits from her foster mom.

"Peach uses her voice a lot when she wants something," Chris said. "It would have worried me, as it was different to the cats I had growing up. But knowing that was just her nature really put my mind at ease."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!