“Do you feel big and strong when you make me feel small. Does it give you joy to see me when my back’s against the wall. Your tongue cuts like a razor with every word you say. Just know before you judge me, that God makes no mistakes. I am beautiful.” These opening lyrics of 18-year-old, Tulsa native Anastasia Richardson’s “I Am Beautiful” is her call to end bullying and a message of hope for all those who’ve felt the devastating effect of its grip and aren’t sure where to turn.
In April, “I Am Beautiful” arrived on three national digital music charts – the Independent Artist chart, the Hip-Hop/R&B chart and the Rock chart – an indication that her message is being heard, an anthem for many in helping to overcome hurt.
An avid singer-songwriter, Richardson hopes her music will encourage others to learn to use their voice instead of hiding it inside, she says, something she did before being inspired to stand up for herself and others going through a similar situation.
During Richardson’s Freshman year at Edison High School, she suffered the crippling control that bullies many times obtain over their target. Richardson often spoke with her mother, Susan Dale, about her experiences at school, but Dale didn’t know how bad it was until her daughter wrote, “When can I stop being bullied on” on a social media site. With the help of the school dean, the problem was resolved, but that wasn’t enough for Richardson. Her dreams were on a much larger scale: sharing her story in hopes it would inspire others. And, it was remembering back to a Justin Bieber concert the year before that drove her momentum.
“[He said to the crowd], ‘If you didn’t believe in me, I wouldn’t be performing in front of you guys,’” Richardson recalls. “That really engaged me.”
That fall, Richardson, in the 8th grade, joined the school chorus. She wrote in her journal, where eventually all her creations would find birth, that she loved singing, and she wanted her songs to mean something. “Note to self,” she wrote. “Write feelings and what happens around me. Maybe I will find something that inspires me.”[pullquote]Earth is raw, and we’re going to make gems out of raw stones.[/pullquote]
Richardson’s first encounter with bullying at Edison began shortly after. And, like she always did, she journaled her experience, saying, “Music is my only friend … hate school.”
A few months later, Richardson told her mom, “I’m going to be a country/pop singer. I’m going to write songs that inspire others and have my first album out in five years.”
“She took it by the horns and ran with it,” Dale says of what happened next.
After one of Richardson’s Youtube videos was retweeted by N’Sync’s Lance Bass in 2013, Curt Ryle, a Nashville producer (originally from Oklahoma) happened upon it as well. Ryle would become another influential force behind Richardson’s success, and while collaborating on “I Am Beautiful” with Ryle, Richardson began molding her talent into other powerful compilations.
Richardson’s first album, I Am Beautiful was self-released in September 2014, three years short of her five year goal, and sharing her story online leading up to its release, she already had 40,000 followers on Twitter by the time she debuted.
“Where Would We Be,” another of Richardson’s pieces on the album that reached the charts, shares her appreciation and gratitude for the military, saying, “Where would we be … without American soldiers who die for you and me. … They sacrificed, ‘cause freedom isn’t free.”
“We’ve had some people point out, ‘That’s my son … that’s my husband,’ Richardson says of her music video made for the record.
Powerful words from such a young soul, Richardson’s music always seeks to connect with its listener, to dissect important and relevant issues and lend a supportive message. Other songs off Richardson’s album include “Big Bad Wolf,” a rebel song about teenagers’ relationships with their parents; “Motions,” about all the things you go through in middle and high school, “boys just don’t get it sometimes,” Richardson says; and “I’ll Do Anything,” a song she wrote for a friend who was struggling with a relationship.
“I pick them up from things I’ve been through,” she says of her lyrics. “Things I hear going on. … I’ll be at a restaurant or laying in bed, and something will pop in my head.”
Her mother recalls Ryle once asking her daughter what inspired her with some notes they were working on, and she replied, “I was watching this movie, and it needed a better theme song.”
Wherever it is that her inspirations come from, Richardson is making a difference, and she’s excited she can encourage others through her passion.
“Music is just my everything,” she says.
Currently working on a new album set to release next year, her ambition offers other exciting goals to work toward.
“Two years, perform in Madison Square Garden and [London’s] Wembly Stadium,” she says. “Five years, go anywhere in the world to perform. To be able to sell those shows out and tell my story.”
In September 2014, along with the release of I Am Beautiful, and with the help of Ryle, Richardson created Earth Made Records, her own record label.
“She said, ‘Earth is raw, and we’re going to make gems out of raw stones,’” her mother recalls of naming the label.
For now, Richardson is focusing her efforts on October: anti-bullying month. She hopes all the TV and radio stations will help her on a campaign to combat bullying by playing “I Am Beautiful” each day throughout October. She and her mother are tackling that goal one email at a time.