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Becoming ‘Stronger’ with Meredith O’Connor

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Meredith O’Connor, teen pop star, is also an anti-bullying activist and “that’s just the thing I like” about her. Known for her inspirational story and using her fame for good, Meredith has sold out concerts worldwide with songs and messages that have changed fans’ lives. She recently debuted her new album, I Am, featuring “Just the Thing” and “Guardian Angel.” She also just released the video for “Stronger,” featuring Disney’s Garrett Clayton and Madeline Stuart, the first professional model with Down syndrome.

StrongerNYMM: What was it like to work with Garrett Clayton?

MO: Garrett and I are both huge supporters of Champions Against Bullying, an anti-bullying organization that promotes kindness. Leigh Rachel Faith, the founder of the organization, introduced Garrett and me to each other. Recording “Stronger” with him was so much fun. I always love collaborations with people who also support such important causes, and he is a great friend. The music video was produced by my manager, Rick Galvin, and Champions Against Bullying supported it as well. So, working with them, our vocal/music producer Heather Holley, and Garrett – along with other great people on the set of the video, like Madeline Stuart – made it a lot of fun.

NYMM: How did you meet Madeline Stuart?

MO: Madeline Stuart brings such an important message to what she does. She is a model singerwho opened and closed the official New York Fashion Week show, and she is beautiful on the inside and out. I met her mother when we sat together in the first row at Fashion Week, and I was so excited when I heard that they were coming to Los Angeles when we were filming “Stronger.” I told my manager that they had to be a part of this, as Madeline inspires people all over who live with different challenges, and she certainly inspires me. The extras and dancers all loved hanging out with her as well.

NYMM: What’s the story behind your video for “Just the Thing?”

MO: In my mind, it means that my significant other in the video (Luke Bilyk from Degrassi) and I both see each other as what the world would deem as normal, but the animal masks represent society’s standards. We weren’t wearing any unusual makeup because, even though we stand out, that is what we see as normal, and we see the pressure to be “cool” as what is strange. Overall, I think the statement is that there is no such thing as normal because being unique, standing out, and being different is what I see as cool.

NYMM: Is the butterfly your spirit insect?

MO: The butterfly is definitely my spirit insect. The butterfly first became a thing for me when I was thinking of ideas for the music video “The Game.” I wrote that song hoping that anyone who felt bullied and alone and listens to my music would realize that things do get better.

In my case, middle and early high school were not at all easy, but the challenges that I faced ended up making me stronger. I wanted to show a little girl getting bullied but having a butterfly as things get better for her. The butterfly symbolizes how any hardships in life are like being in a cocoon, but once you’ve broken free, you become a butterfly – more beautiful and exquisite than ever. Showing my fans that is one of the most important messages I can give.

MEredithNYMM: Which of your lyrics would you say best defines you?

MO: Probably the first line of “Just the Thing” – “I’m awkward, a little OCD,” as those were two major things that were once things that got in my way, set me apart, and were weaknesses. Yet, like the meaning behind the entire song, I’ve learned that the things that set me apart are my strengths. Being taller than my friends in middle school worked in my favor for modeling when I was 14. Although OCD is briefly mentioned in the song, it is pretty significant for me because I learned to handle it and not let it get in the way of things. I’ve gained a lot of insight on any other challenges presented in life.

NYMM: What are some of your hopes and goals?

MO: I hope that people who go through similar things as I did never have to live with the feeling of shame and fear. I always was afraid to report what was happening, or even seek help, because I believed that it was all my fault. I have had thousands of fans writing with similar stories, but the most rewarding part of my work is being able to tell them things that I wasn’t told going through it, and being able to show them that they aren’t alone.

In five years I hope to expand into film and delve into mental health. I am working with Lake Edge Productions, a studio in London, on a film with this message. I’m also working with Directing Change, a mental health organization based on improving the stigma against mental health, something I often hear that my fans are experiencing.

NYMM: What are you most excited for next?

MO: Right now, I am so stoked for the New Zealand tour. There will be another world tour announcement soon, and I am so excited to perform songs from the new album I Am.

You can connect with Meredith here:

Twitter: @meredithter

Instagram: @meredithoconnor

Facebook: Meredith O’Connor

Official website: meredithoconnormusic.com

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