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A teenager in Tennessee suffered something truly appalling at the hands of high school bullies. Lauren Williams (known as “Lulu”), who’s just 16, normally wore wigs to school to help with a scalp condition that causes dryness, and her hair to break and fall out. As if that weren’t hard enough to deal with, a few of her classmates at Franklin High School decided, in a $5 bet, to see if they could rip her wig off.  To make things even worse, Snapchatted the incident, captioning the video, “Weave snatchin”.

Lauren’s mother, Myckelle, took to Facebook to post thoughts on the seriousness of the incident, linking the prevalence in bullying to broader trends in teen suicide. “The teen suicide rate has now DOUBLED and bullying has played a HUGE Role,” she said, and it’s hard to argue.

Describing the incident in heartbreaking detail, she shared, “These kids not only tore her wig off in the middle of school, but video taped it. They followed her to the bathroom as she screamed and cried and proceeded to tape her OVER the stall as she cried and begged for her wig… Later I had to take her to the hospital for abrasions and whiplash.”

Speaking to WSMV-TV, Lauren opened up, saying “My hair is, like, my one place where I can feel safe, and I loved having wigs to express myself… When they tore that off me, I felt basically naked and I felt so insecure myself and just terrible.” We can’t even imagine what would drive people to such behaviour, and how that must have felt for Lauren.

She’s decided, however, to take matters into her own hands. Rather than be belittled by the bullies, she’s taken her power back by shaving off all her remaining hair. She said, “My hair was one of my biggest insecurities so I felt like he had taken my power and I wanted it back… When I walk around with a bald head he’ll know that he didn’t do anything but give me more power to speak out to other people.” Right on, Lauren.

After word of the incident got out online, one famous voice had some encouraging words. Tyra Banks, who herself has worn wigs and understands the power of unconventional beauty, posted a series of sympathetic and empowering tweets:

Well, if that isn’t empowering – we don’t know what is.

It looks like Lauren’s got all the right support behind her, with her mom adding, “I admire the strength and beauty of my little Lulu and know that she will inspire many others even through this difficult time in her life.”

And mother Myckelle also had advice for anyone with a teen in a similar situation, “…let them know that they are strong and beautiful and can own their insecurities and take control rather than being controlled.” It’s heartbreaking to hear instances of such casual and bullying take place all around us, but it’s beautiful to see so much loving support reach people in their time of need.

An anti-bullying rally, hosted by Myckelle, will be held at the Concordia Arts Academy in Tennessee on Thursday, February 8th.

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