In March of 2011, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached mainstream media’s attention after various talk shows, comedians, influencers, and celebrities started mentioning the song as one of the worst pieces of music the world has ever seen.
Soon enough, the memes followed, then the parodies, and then, death threats. It seems that an innocuous song written by a 13 year old girl was enough to spur certain people into fits of such frenzied rage that they would see it fit to threaten her with bodily harm.
But despite the mainstream hatred, the online harassment, and the real-life bullying that followed, young Rebecca Black stood her ground and made it known to everyone that what she went through was not ok, that it needed to stop, and that bullying is wrong.
So, who exactly is Rebecca Black?
Rebecca Renee Black was born on June 21, 1997, to veterinarians John Black and Georgina Kelly. She is of Mexican, English, Italian, and Polish descent. Rebecca Black was born and raised in Irvine, California, where she attended private school from kindergarten up to the 6th grade. However, due to extensive bullying, she moved to a public school after 6th grade, where she quickly joined the musical theater program. Rebecca Black cherished this time, saying that the program was where she felt like she was “meant to be”.
This feeling of security didn’t last long, however, as former classmates continued to taunt and hound her. Because of the constant bullying, the social media ridicule, and her decision to focus on her newfound passion for singing, Rebecca dropped out of school in April of 2011 in favor of homeschooling.
The root cause of all the bullying, her single “Friday”, was supposed to be a passion project that was meant to showcase her talents and jumpstart her career. Unfortunately, the toxic side of the internet reared its ugly head and targeted innocent Rebecca mercilessly.
Passion Gone Awry
“Friday” started out as Rebecca Black’s passion project back in 2010. Rebecca was introduced to ARK Music Factory, an LA-based music composition and production company. Rebecca’s mother, Georgina, paid the music label $4,000 to produce a pop single for her daughter. Producer Patrice Wilson took on the challenge and wrote “Friday”, an innocent song about a day in the life of a teenager and the excitement that brings.
Rebecca Black was 13 years old when the song was released in March of 2011 on YouTube. In a matter of mere days, “Friday” went viral and became the trending topic on twitter, but in a bad way: thousands of online haters derided the video intensely, and mainstream media coverage was overwhelmingly negative.
Attack of the Haters
Almost immediately, Rebecca Black became the target of both online and real-life hate. In an essay entitled “What I Learned from Being a Target of Internet Hate at Age 13”, Rebecca says,
“”When ‘Friday’ went up on the internet, it went crazy — and the onslaught of negative attention I received was so sudden and so intense that I wasn’t sure I would survive.”
In my life, there were people I personally knew at school and in my inner circle who verbally abused me…I once met someone who had bullied me online, and she told me to my face that she hadn’t ever considered that I was actually a real, living, breathing human being.”
“One minute, I was a normal girl and then, in the next, millions of people know who I was and they were ruthless in hurling the most vile words my way…People were writing things all over the internet, on social media and they were laughing at me on TV shows, and making fun of me in YouTube videos. It was open season and I was the target. The fact that there was a human, a person — a 13-year-old girl — on the other side of the screen seemingly escaped so many people’s attention.”
Rebecca says that, to cope with the harassment, she decided to “shut down” and shied away from social media and all internet activity for the longest time. While most threats came from online channels, some people went a step farther and physically mailed or called her with death threats. Two of the threats were credible enough for the Anaheim police to investigate. Of this, Anaheim Police spokesperson Rick Martinez said:
“In essence the threats were related to getting the music off the Internet or they were going to kill her..We can’t validate how serious they are, but we do take it seriously”
Resilience Through the Pain
Despite the overwhelmingly negative attention she’s received, the online and real-life bullying, and even the death threats, Rebecca Black remained focused on her career. Shortly after the release of “Friday”, Rebecca released two more singles in 2011, and more in the following years.
After the initial wave of hatred, Rebecca found respite when celebrities like Katy Perry and even the cast and writers of then-popular show Glee threw their support for the struggling singer. But Rebecca Black herself did something extraordinary: she took an overwhelmingly negative experience and processed it better than most adults. She took the hateful comments as a sign of another person’s pain. She tried her best to understand why those people acted the way they did, and then found it in her heart to let those things go and move forward.
Even better, she is using her experience to educate people about cyber bullying. With her newfound fame as her platform, Rebecca Black has been actively campaigning against bullying via speaking engagements and her YouTube channel.
At the moment, she is busy writing new songs and albums, with her latest EP RE/BL being released in 2017. She’s collaborated with various musicians like Dave Days and Katy Perry, with the latter inviting Rebecca to co-star in her music video for Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F). Her in/famous song “Friday” has also been covered by a number of artists, both as serious homage and parodies.
So who is Rebecca Black? She’s a musician, an artist, a victim of cyber bullying, but also, she is an inspiration.