The Bullying of Marissa Powell (Miss Utah)

Imagine for a moment: you’re on stage in front of thousands of people. Hot lights are shining down on you. Around three million people around the world are watching you on their televisions. Put yourself in that position. You’re in it to win it. Put yourself there.

Now answer a random question read to you by Nene Leakes.

How are you feeling?

This is where Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, found herself on June 16th during the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. She fumbled, tried to recover, and did the best she could. Now she’s a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons (watch video).

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Now, I will be honest. I wasn’t watching; I didn’t know it was on, and I could have cared less. Last time I enjoyed watching a beauty pageant- Sandra Bullock and William Shatner were involved and it was hilarious.

Moving on.

I knew nothing about the pageant or Miss Utah’s fumble until the following day when I spotted a video on the YouTube home page. I didn’t give it a second thought. Then it appeared on the Daily Show, Jimmy Fallon, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…it was viral.

I caved. I watched it. Frankly, I’m ashamed.

Being on stage is not the easiest thing in the world. I’ve been in front of hundreds of audience across this country ranging in attendance from 20-4,000. It’s nerve-wracking and I already know what I’m going to say. I can’t imagine being put in front of MILLIONS of people.

Marissa was first in line for the questions and she didn’t do so hot. She knew what she wanted to say but nerves took over and she fumbled, did her best to recover, and quit while she was ahead. I have nothing but respect for that.

What I’m ashamed of are the thousands of commentators out there bashing this young woman for her fumble. This is bullying at its worst. Isn’t this what we’ve been telling our kids is wrong?

On one YouTube video alone there are comments like “This is the reason why men make more than women” and “I am now dumber for having listened to this.” Others went on to comment on what she should have said. Of course you can do better; you’re sitting at home on the computer with no one watching.

This is a prime example that bullying isn’t just happening with kids. Bullying is an epidemic in schools, workplaces and all over the cyber world. In this instance we have thousands of strangers making fun of someone who was in a stressful situation.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is how our words can affect others. While Marissa has been able to laugh about her flub and make fun of herself, I can’t imagine these mean-spirited comments calling her “un-American” and “an example of why women will never be better than men” aren’t taking an effect on her.

It’s easy for us to judge from afar. But I want you to close your eyes. Imagine those spotlights. Put yourself in her shoes.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Demi Lovato: The Right Kind of Role Model

I’m not going to try to hide it, I’m a big fan of Demi Lovato. I’m listening to “Heart Attack” as I write this. I think her music is a lot of fun without being too bubble-gum pop and too risqué. I’m an even bigger fan of her as a person.

Demi Lovato

There are very few celebrities out there that I can honestly say serve as a good role model for kids today. I can count the number of truly inspiring young entertainers on one hand. That’s a big sad.

Demi Lovato is one of those people.

Before June of 2012, I knew next to nothing about her. I knew she was a Disney Channel kid and that at one point, she entered treatment.

That’s about it.

She jumped on my radar when I attended a taping of the X-Factor in Providence, RI. I wanted to hate her simply because so many young girls were SCREAMING at the top of their lungs at the very mention of her name. That’s enough to dive anyone nuts.

As the taping got underway, I couldn’t help but love her. She was smart, funny, and genuine. I was hooked.

I began paying more attention to her (following on Twitter, keeping an eye on the news feeds and I’ll even admit that I caved and watched some of the X-Factor as the new season began). That’s when I saw what a wonderfully amazing person she is.

Her anti-bullying efforts are to be commended and that fact that she is so open about her own struggles is both refreshing and inspiring. Recently, during a performance at the B96 Pepsi Summer Bash, she took a breather from performing to talk about her treatment at a facility close to the concert venue.

This is the type of person I would want my kids looking up to. She the type of person I would love to meet and have a conversation with (I’m sorry to say you won’t find me at a concert unless I was comfortable sat somewhere off-stage away from the screaming…backstage passes perhaps?).

I know this a bit of an “off-topic” entry for this blog, but considering her message to her fans through the above video and the difference she is working to make in the world, I think she fits right in!

What celebrities to do think kids should be looking up to?

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning speaker specializing in Internet Safety and Cyberbullying. For more information on Josh and his educational programs please visit