By Kristina Houck
Torrey Mercer was bullied as a child. In elementary school, she was teased for being overweight. In high school, she was ridiculed for releasing
Now 20 years old, the once bullying victim has become an anti-bullying advocate. Mercer, a Solana Beach native and Canyon Crest Academy alumna, raises awareness about bullying by sharing her story and talent with K-12 students across the U.S.
“Hearing different stories really inspires the kids,” said Mercer, a UC Irvine junior majoring in drama and English. “They realize it happened to me — people bullied me at one point. It really doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from. Anybody can be bullied.”
After being bullied in elementary school, Mercer said she was insecure about her body and self-image for a long time. Then, when she was 16, the singer-songwriter was cyber bullied on Formspring, an Internet-based social Q&A website, after she released her first single on iTunes.
“They would push me down about singing and about what I wanted to do,” she said. “I knew that I was really good at it, so I knew that these people were just being mean. But it didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt me.
“It really gave me the drive to pursue singing and to pursue helping other kids. I think that if someone is tearing you down about a dream of yours, that’s just awful to think it could cause you to never follow that dream.”
Mercer was among several artists who participated in the 2011 No Bully Tour. Sponsored by JNFE Global, the national tour featured musicians and guest speakers who addressed the issue of bullying at campuses across the country.
“It made me realize I can work with kids and that I love to do it,” Mercer said. “It really is a passion of mine to work with kids of any age. The youth — they’re the future. I want to inspire them to be the best future we can have.”
After the tour, Mercer launched her own anti-bullying program at Balboa Elementary School in San Diego in June 2012. She has since visited dozens of schools, mostly throughout California.
Mercer recently visited Carmel Valley Middle School on Oct. 1 and 2 to raise awareness about bullying and work with 1,500 students. She shared her story and led a variety of activities, including “Cross the Line,” where she asked the students questions and encouraged them to step over a line to answer. Questions ranged from ‘Do you like Katy Perry?’ to ‘Have you ever been bullied or bullied someone?’
“Usually the whole group crosses when I ask that question,” Mercer said. “It really makes the kids realize that what’s going on in their school is not OK, and that bullying doesn’t have to happen. They can be kind to each other and be brave.”
During the two-day program, Mercer encouraged students to share their stories, which led some of the students to apologize to one another, Mercer said.
She also sang inspirational cover songs like The Script’s “Hall of Fame,” as well as some of her own music, including “Looking Glass,” a song about low self-esteem.
“I’ve got a lot of feedback from kids who said the music inspired them to be more proactive at their school about bullying,” Mercer said. “I really do believe that music has the power to really inspire people when it’s brought hand-in-hand with talking about bullying.”
In addition to school assemblies, Mercer has held benefit concerts and worked with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Eating Disorder Association, Natural High and Rady Children’s Hospital.
“My goal is to spread kindness and bravery,” she said. “There is never anything wrong with being kind and there is never anything wrong with believing in yourself.”
“Remember that everyone is going through something. Everyone has baggage, even the bully. Everyone is insecure about something, mad about something or hurt about something. Remember that, be kind to others, and be the best person you can be.”
For more information about Mercer or to book an anti-bullying assembly, visit