Pop superstar Lady Gaga gave a high-profile boost to a Toronto student’s efforts to end bullying on Friday.
Jacques St. Pierre, 17, is in Grade 12 and is student council president of the Etobicoke School of the Arts.
St. Pierre endured bullying during his elementary school years and wanted to do something to raise awareness about the problem.
"I got called the gay kid, the fag, because I liked to be in the school plays," he told CBC’s Melanie Nagy. "I lost my best friend because he joined in with the bullies. It’s not fun, I’ve been there, I’ve been bullied. Before that, I didn’t know bullying could affect people so severely."
Motivated to do something about it, St. Pierre organized a school assembly with an anti-bullying theme. He also gathered pledges from fellow students, calling on them to agree to help combat the problem.
Grade 12 student Jacques St. Pierre was bullied during his elementary school years and wanted to do something to combat the problem. CBC
But he also sent dozens of emails to celebrities, asking them to give their support.
That’s when he received an email he won’t soon forget.
"The subject line said ‘To Jacques from Lady Gaga,’" he told Nagy. "It said ‘click on the link below to download the video for your assembly.’ So no questions asked, Lady Gaga sent us a video. I watched it, and I started crying. I’m a huge fan. It’s kind of embarrassing because I love her so much. I couldn’t believe it."
In her video addressed to him, Lady Gaga praises St. Pierre for his work to combat bullying, particularly bullying directed at gay and lesbian students.
"I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you for being such a strong advocate of the LGBT community in your school," she said. "There should be more little monsters like you.
"My father always saves all the fan letters that I receive and I read yours and wanted to send this video to you. It is important that we push the boundaries of love and acceptance."
Lady Gaga said it was important given the recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a Buffalo teen who committed suicide in September. One of his last tweets before he died was to Lady Gaga, who dedicated a song to him at one of her concerts.
Lady Gaga’s message got a strong reaction from students at the school assembly.
"I’m starting to actually realize how big this problem is and I just want to make a difference now," said one male student.
"I love Lady Gaga and it means so much to me that she could do that for us and support us through this," said another.
St. Pierre said he was elated to receive such high-profile support.
"Young or old, people know who Lady Gaga is, because she’s such a character and she does so much to stand up against bullying in any way she can. And someone as inspiring as her, taking 20 minutes out of her day to write down a speech, sit in front of a Teleprompter, get all made up and read it to us directly at our school. It’s fantastic."
St. Pierre also got support from CBC comedian Rick Mercer, whose recent anti-bullying rant video on his show went viral after airing on the Rick Mercer Report. The video was played Friday during the assembly.
St. Pierre kept Gaga’s contribution secret prior to the assembly, which featured singing, dancing and a broadcast of her video.
"Last year when the It Gets Better project started on YouTube, I was inspired by all the thousands of videos that were put online by celebrities, politicians and regular people," said St. Pierre.
"And I wanted to do something like that, so I ran for student council president and my campaign for that was to host an assembly about equality and anti-bullying and spread the message that everybody should be loved and accepted no matter what or who they are."