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By Marlo Thomas, Huffington Post

Michael Phelps was bullied for his lisp and big ears in his Baltimore hometown.

Michael Phelps was bullied for his lisp and big ears in his Baltimore hometown.

Tyra Banks got called “Lightbulb Head.” Chris Colfer was stuffed into lockers. Rihanna was mocked for not being “black enough.” And as for Howard Stern, he had to go to judo school just to learn to defend himself.

And all of them not only survived, but thrived.

Since launching our anti-bullying campaign in 2011, we’ve discussed a variety of strategies that can help stem the tide of this urgent national crisis — from parent and teacher intervention, to bully-prevention training for the kids. But there’s something equally empowering about hearing the stories of those who have been bullied themselves — especially because they got through it, survived it and, in some cases, went on to become successful and well known.

Celebrity involvement in social causes is nothing new, of course. But in the case of bullying, it sends a potent message: “I once felt just like you — despairing and without hope — and look what I made of my life.”

Two-and-half years ago, writer Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller proved just how effective star power can be on the war against bullying when they launched their web-based It Gets Better Project, a video-driven anti-bullying campaign that responded to the increasing suicides among gay and questioning youth.

Savage realized that bullied kids needed role models in their lives and they needed to know that things can and do change. The project’s impact was immediate: by week two, its YouTube channel had already exhausted its 650-video limit; and now its website features more than 50,000 entries from people of all sexual orientations, many of them celebrities.

Beyond name recognition and a familiar face, celebrities who speak about having been bullied themselves are also living proof that sometimes the very thing that brought them torment when they were younger turned out to be their signature triumph. “I grew up in Tennessee, and if you didn’t play football, you were a sissy,” Justin Timberlake revealed to Ellen DeGeneres on her show. “I got slurs all the time because I was in music and art. But everything that you get picked on for is essentially what’s going to make you sexy as an adult.”

And, yes, there’s also a bit of sweet revenge in making it big when the bullies tried to make you feel small. “If I could go back and tell my 14-year-old self anything,” says Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, “it would be: ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to be doing exactly what you want to be doing in 20 years, and those a***holes are still going to be a***holes. So let it go!'”

To learn more about how you can help your children deal with bullying visit:www.stopbullying.gov