Bullying seems to be an all-too-common part of growing up. But for high school sophomore Chloe Howard, bullying inspired her to start something amazing.
She had her first surgery at six-months-old. Before she turned three, she'd had two more major surgeries and several minor ones. Despite all of this, Howard never felt embarrassed or ashamed of her deformity.
"Growing up, my parents taught me that my foot was special — even beautiful," Howard told Revelist. "I felt like I had a secret superpower; my clubfoot made me unique!"
"I was happy with the way I was," Howard continued. "I felt special, and loved, and that was all that mattered."
But during her freshman year of high school in 2014, her feelings shifted:
"I was called over by a group of girls. They said 'Hey, Chloe, take off your shoe!' I was like what? I said, 'You know what, I’m good. I'm going to leave my shoes on.' The girl kneeled on the ground and tried to take my shoe and sock off. I was kind of struggling because she was pretty strong. Another girl came around the table and said ‘Fine, I’ll help.’ She went behind me and grasped me with her arms and lifted me up off of the ground so the other girl could take off my shoe and sock and show everyone my deformed foot. That was really hard. I was shocked and scared. I felt ashamed of the part of me that I was told had made me special."
This past summer, Howard and her dad met U2's frontman, Bono, through the Omaze and the Red campaign. Howard told Bono
about her clubfoot and the assault. His response is amazing:
"What happened to you is an injustice," Bono told Howard. "People ask me if I ever get nervous talking to world leaders, and I always say no. Because what I have to say is good. And when your words are right and true and good, your voice is like a punch. Not a physical punch, but a verbal punch. And that punch is supported by the voices of many."
That moment inspired Howard to create the Stand Beautiful campaign.
"I am passionate about causes that encourage the transformation from brokenness," she said. "The parts of us that society looks at and deems ugly, weird, or abnormal makes us unique."
Howard, who would like to attend Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, would love to be a therapist when she’s older.
"We're all irregular, dysfunctional, or malformed in some way — whether it's on the exterior or the interior. It's futile to try to conform to a “normal” that doesn’t exist,” says Howard. "Our differences make us who we are."