This summer, WONKA® is calling on NERDS® everywhere to unite and celebrate their individuality and stand up against bullying. The movement, led by spokesperson actor Wilmer Valderrama, best known for his role on FOX’s That 70s Show, is a positive message for teens. Together with the leading national anti-bullying and anti-cyber bullying organization for teens, STOMP Out Bullying™, WONKA has launched “NERDS Unite!” campaign to remind the world we are all NERDS at heart.
“WONKA has taken the beloved brand of NERDS candy and what that brand stands for – fun, originality, and basically cool nerdiness – and elevated it to a topic that is so important for teens to discuss today,” said STOMP Out Bullying founder and chief executive officer Ross Ellis. “STOMP Out Bullying is proud to partner with WONKA NERDS in putting the spotlight on anti-bullying in a truly creative campaign that embraces individuality.”
“Whether your interests lie in books, music, sports, or video games, WONKA believes that we’re all nerdy about something—it’s about celebrating the individuality and differences that make our worlds so much more imaginative, colorful and fun,” said WONKA spokesperson Tricia Bowles of Nestlé USA Confections & Snacks. “NERDS Unite! aims to spotlight the uniqueness, passion, and originality of teens everywhere. If you believe in this cause and join the movement, WONKA will donate to STOMP Out Bullying.”
“It’s a tough, new world out there for young people dealing with bullying these days,” said Valederrama. “With the Internet and other means of bullying, the NERDS Unite! campaign is as important as ever to remind everyone, young and old, that being different is actually great and totally normal. We all have something we’re passionate or nerdy about, and I love that WONKA is applauding that.”
On Tuesday, Valderrama, unveiled White-Out NERDS at Circle K in West L.A. The NERDS normally colorful nerds went colorless to show that NERDS cannot be defined by looks alone — it’s about what’s on the inside. Please go to Facebook.com/Wonka and join the “NERDS Unite!” movement where you can share what you are “a NERD for,” and watch the movement grow. WONKA will make a $25,000 donation to STOMP Out Bullying if at least 10,000 join the Nerds Unite! movement, so let’s help them hit their number.
Miss A was able to interview Wilmer Valderrama on what drives his passion for this nonprofit, and what other causes he supports.
Why are you (Wilmer) deciding to focus on this issue? How did you get involved?
Valderrama: A couple of years back I decided to focus on these teen issues and bullying was fast and rapidly growing. I understood [this issue] immediately and I could relate to it. I started to pay attention in the entertainment industry and I felt that they had some interesting approaches to the issue, but it wasn’t until I partnered up with Wonka and Stomp Out Bullying that I felt that we had the right approach. With NERDS Unite!, I felt that it was that call-to-action that the kids needed; the permission to be themselves, permission to be unique and to embrace individuality and their uniqueness. For me, that was very special because it was that very thing that allowed me to become who I am today. If it wasn’t for the moment that I said to myself, it’s time to really stand your ground and be who you’re going to be, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. Therefore, this campaign meant a lot to me and I was really excited to join forces with these incredible two companies who I felt had the right spirit for the actual cause.
What are you hoping to accomplish through this program?
Valderrama: I just hope that this is not the last, but the first real attempt of encouraging kids and teens to really embrace who they are as people and who they want to be in their future. I think that the NERDS Unite! campaign is one that can really outlast a lot of PSAs. I feel that this campaign is one of those empowerment moments where you can really give the kids those notions that there is an alternative and you do have options. Bullying is happening, it’s very real, it’s very dramatic, but there is very little messaging behind it and little structure to help and propose how to fix the problem until now. The idea is to have the kids and the teens really embrace change. It’s about embracing who you are. With NERDS United!, it’s about recreating what the word “nerd” is, and redefining the word nerd is. To me, it’s about embracing your interest and opinions and speaking out loud. To wear what you want to wear and be who you want to be. We want to empower them [teens], and encourage them to be who they really are as opposed to what the entertainment industry says is cool. The image of cool and perfect is completely misguided. Nothing more says power and nothing more say cool than actually reinventing the word nerd and I think that all of us united can do that.
Were you ever bullied? Have you ever bullied someone as a child? What did you learn in both instances?
Valderrama: Yes, I was bullied and in fact I feel that I am still bullied today. A lot of people in the entertainment industry pride themselves with their own opinion on things and on people who they really know nothing about. That to me is amusing. I learned to really not let myself lose sleep over it, and to continue on the journey that I set out to walk. When I first came to America, I didn’t know how to speak English. When I embraced the language I had an accent. At that point, it was still a problem because you weren’t cool or smart enough, and you were inferior somewhat if you didn’t know how to speak or sound like them. Unfortunately, that can really break you psychologically as a teenager. It wasn’t until I embraced my interest and roots, and I never forgot my roots, I was able to stand strong and stand my ground. It helped me decide that I don’t have to sound like them and I don’t have to be like them, I can be me. I can be my own version of cool.
I keynote speak a lot around the country. A lot of these kids just want to feel that they are doing the right thing and they just want somebody else to approve it. They want somebody else to tell them that it’s OK. And when the wrong person tells them that it’s not, then they stop dreaming out loud, and then we have a very sad situation. The NERDS Unite! campaign with Wonka, Stomp Out Bullying and I are set out to give teens everywhere permission to take us to the new version of cool, where we are all called nerds, that it’s ok to be you and it’s ok to aspire to be anything.
Do you have any special projects coming up you would like to share with our readers? Professional or charity related? We are a charity style related site.
Valderrama: I’ve developed a number of projects that are very empowering for youth and the Latin community as well. It’s very important for me to stay on course when it comes to redefining what my Latin community is in the mainstream industry, and also how serious we take the youth are both very important to me. I am launching a clothing line called, “This Shirt Helps.” You can go to thisshirthelps.com to see what we are doing. Basically I have created a format where when you purchase this t-shirt, you can actually choose and allocate your purchase to a specific cause. We have causes for education, planting trees, the environment, fresh water and more!
STOMP Out Bullying™ is the leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization for kids and teens. It is the signature program of Love Our Children USA, the national nonprofit leader fighting violence against children which was founded in 1999. Created in 2005, STOMP Out Bullying™ focuses on reducing and preventing bullying, cyberbullying, sexting and other digital abuse, educating against homophobia, racism and hatred, decreasing school absenteeism, and deterring violence in schools, online and in communities across the country. It teaches effective solutions on how to respond to all forms of bullying; as well as educating kids and teens in school and online, providing help for those in need and at risk of suicide, raising awareness, peer mentoring programs in schools, public service announcements by noted celebrities, and social media campaigns. An additional focus educates parents on how to keep their children safe and responsible online.