How did you get over being bullied
"If you just gulp it down, you explode" —YouTuberin Taylor Davis on bullying nerds
Photo: YouTube screenshot from Taylor Davis 'video "Binks' Sake"
Taylor Davis surprised himself. Six years ago she stood in front of the camera, shy and stiff, in a flowery cardigan, armed with her violin and played Final fantasySoundtracks after. Your neighbor was at the piano. Really nerdy, right? But it hit a nerve that she didn't even know could even exist. Today she has over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and you pirates of the Caribbean-Cover has almost 25 million views.
Davis has blossomed into a power woman and now does almost everything on his own: compositions, recordings, production - except for mastering. She laughs a lot and has a sunny disposition. If you quote her talking about old demons, about her "sad and lonely time", she giggles relaxed. Because yes, there was. Before her YouTube channel got such a boost. Before she was the center of attention and was worshiped , She was the target of nasty brawls and small-town bitches. At school she was bullied, indulged in suicidal thoughts and crawled into the dazzling worlds of online role-playing games. Today her career springboard, then the escape from all the horror.
Now Taylor is part of the machine: a musician in the field of vision of anonymous viewers. Pop stars from all over the world shape the stylized image of almost perfect female bodies, splitting the gap to normal-looking faces that will never get that far. Attack surfaces are created automatically, every flaw is commented on in the media and torn to pieces. Taylor Davis, herself a victim of years of bullying, finds the right words in the interview: How do you deal with it? What can change Where does sexism begin? What should haters and bullies learn?
Noisey: When you were a kid, you were obsessed with video games. How did that happen?
T. Davis:I have a brother who is three years older than me and whom I have always adored. I wanted to do everything he did, so I played along G.I. Joe-Action figures and of course video games. I gambled a lot in middle school, that's when I discovered Chrono trigger and Final Fantasy VII—This is my favorite game to this day. Since then, I've spent more time playing video games than playing the violin.
Yes, my mum ordered me to play the violin for at least 30 minutes before I was allowed to gamble again. I still play with my husband today League Of Legends, during the breaks from editing the recordings. Today I can do a short match. I used to be tied up for four days in a row. But that's really deadly during my deadlines.
You were bullied hard, especially in middle school.
I hardly had any friends. When I was in the middle of fourth grade, my family moved from Illinois to Michigan. Since then, I've had a hard time making friends. I was more to myself and video games were my escape. I longed to come home. I was fully in EverQuestinside. I no longer had to think about my real life situation, could be someone else, someone powerful. I was bullied for my looks and my hobbies. There weren't a lot of gamers at my school, especially girls. That made me different, I became a goal.
Doesn't sound like you felt alone, though.
Exactly. My real life wasn't that great, but the games helped me. I was able to focus on something else instead of thinking about what was going on in school. When I was in ninth grade, our high school, I met my current husband. On our first date at 14, we met in Super Smash Bros. challenged on the Nintendo 64. We were really nerdy on the road, that changed my world. All of a sudden I got a best friend with whom I shared 99 percent of interests.
Was he bullied too?
Yeah, haha, he was really small when we met. At that age, this offers a target for attack. I saw his meal money being taken away while he was being pushed to the locker. Once he was also put in a trash can (chuckles). We have some stories to share.
In Europe we think that only happens in American teen films.
Yes. Even some of our American friends are surprised, haha.
You can laugh about it today, but how was that back then?
It was very sad to be honest. Of course, you don't want to be bullied about what you like to do or how you look. You don't want to feel the disapproval and the attacks. It was tough, I was depressed. It was a lonely time. Looking back, we can laugh about it, but it's not so funny because children still have such experiences today. Fortunately, it makes you strong and realizes that hopefully these guys will grow up and not be those mean kids doing stupid things anymore.
Have you had really bad injuries?
I've heard rumors about myself, been pushed into the locker, a tray pulled over my head. There wasn't one bad thing, more like how the teachers handled it. In my class, two girls were picking on another who was mentally disabled. I wanted to stop them, so they attacked me and kept trying to kick my chair away when I sat down. So I turned the tables and pulled one of theirs away. She hit her head on the edge of the table, but wasn't really injured. So she went to the teacher and I got in trouble. I wanted to explain to her that the two of them do this all the time, nobody intervenes and that I had to do something. She didn't understand and said it was my fault. I should get over it. I think that's wrong. If you just have to swallow it, you will explode at some point. It is important to be aware of such things and to stand up for others. I'm part of a campaign called "I Witness Bullying". The point is, so many people have witnessed bullying, but they never intervene. Because they think it won't do anything, or because they're afraid of becoming a target themselves. But just by showing that you saw what happened makes it easier for the person who is being bullied. Because she is no longer alone with it, has a community. So you can intervene positively, not like I did back then by attacking back. Ignoring is never a good thing.
But how was it in the digital world? Here, too, the anonymous guys can be really rough.
EverQuest was rather classic, at League Of Legends there was such a bad community. So many people have said such mean things. That's why we formed a team with friends.
Were you scared the first time you stepped in front of the camera with the violin and performed cover songs for video games?
Yeah, I'm still wondering how I got myself into it. It's not part of my shy personality. It's so strange that I can make a living from having a career. And overwhelming.
Do you still feel weird posing like a model for Instagram posts?
Yes, ha ha. But I don't take things too seriously, I can laugh about them.
Was it surprising for you that the gaming nerds celebrate your classic covers like that?
It was surprising to see how many people there are out there who appreciate this type of music. In my little world at school, I was pretty much alone. I never thought there would be such a huge audience. I saw myself as a weirdo who was Final FantasyBurned soundtracks as mix tapes. It's nice to see that grow. When you see touring orchestras playing video game music live.
Not meant badly: But it's really surprising how hard you have to look for negative comments under your videos. Did that exist at the beginning?
Yes, everyone who posts something online gets these comments. What I see today revolves around: "Oh, is she fat", "She has put on weight" or random nonsense like that. But now I have so many videos online that I don't check all the comments anymore. I still have a tradition of trying to answer as many as possible the first two days after a new video has been published. As a thank you for the subscribers. I deleted a few very perverts because my mum was rummaging through the comments. She showed me something that makes my heart sad that she had to read it. That was so disgusting, that's why I'm deleting some.
Do you also interact with your haters?
A few years ago I made myself aware that if you can't answer all of the positive comments, why bother with the negative ones? But if I see racist or sexist comments, I delete them. I have a lot of young girls as followers. I don't want them to think I'm okay with people saying that. I want to be an alternate example for young women in the entertainment room. Many girls feel very comfortable with being sexualized in their image. But I don't feel comfortable with that. Myself, my image and my brand say: Courage to be normal.
Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches wrote an open letter against misogynistic comments on the net. Did you follow that
No, that's very brave of her. Anyone who wants to spark such discussions is met with such a hateful attitude. Anyone who complains about sexism or poses as a feminist. There should be a discussion, there is a right and a wrong. It's hard to talk about. A lot of guys think they compliment you with comments like this. In reality, these make you feel uncomfortable. But it can be exactly the same for men.
Do you get sexual hostility while on tour?
No, less in real life. Everything online is so anonymous. People think they can get rid of anything they would never say to another's face. Because they don't have to see the reaction, feel no responsibility. And: You don't see the intentions either. People have said to me offensive things that, if written, would certainly be really offensive. But I could see them tripping over her tongue nervously and still smiling. They didn't mean to be mean. You can't see the body language online, you can't discover the intentions behind it. Text always comes harder than real life interactions.
In a comment under the "I Witness Bullying" campaign, a former bullied man writes that it took him two decades to recognize and eliminate the negative basic thoughts that he had carried off through years of bullying. What did you get out of it?
No, but it took a while to get over it. Why I am so lucky is because of my husband. We first became best friends, now we've been married for five years and together for 15 years. To have someone you love so much, who was there for you during these times, and wonderful parents, that was so incredibly helpful. I was interested in what these people think of me, so I was able to shake off the negative things. If my mum had trolled me with disgusting comments, I would be very sad today, haha.
Did you open up to your parents back then?
We weren't as close then as we are now. I confided some of this to them — some of my suicidal thoughts and that I cut myself. My dad didn't want to hear about it. He was bullied himself because he was a nerd and very small. In their generation, the motto was rather: “Don't talk about it, live with it.” He must have had emotional problems because he never knew how to express what he felt.
So that's definitely not the tip you would give young YouTubers. What do you advise them?
It is very important to have a few people in your life who have regular lives. Because that gives perspective. Friends who love you because you are you. Not because you grew up online.
And what do you give the bullies on their way?
Delete your accounts! Haha no. Sometimes I get angry, but most of the time I feel sorry for people. If you really have nothing better to do with your time than giving bad feelings to others — whom you don't even know — then that's sad. You should use the time to feel good yourself, to make progress in life, to achieve a new goal. I believe these people aren't necessarily bad people. They may be a little lost, angry, and don't know how to channel this more productively.
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