Motivational speaker sparks inspiration


Sophia Bailly, Staff Writer

Motivational speaker and former WWE wrestler Chris Hollyfield inspired students as “an undersized man in an oversized world” when he spoke out against bullying during three assemblies recently.

Standing 4 feet, 4 inches tall, Hollyfield grew up facing verbal and physical bullying as his peers and the rest of society teased him for his differences. He said his dwarfism, however, never made him love himself any less. 

“When you see the importance in yourself, you don’t see that negative smoke,” Hollyfield said. “You might hear it, but you don’t see it. Because you are on your mission, your goal, your dream. I always thought I was the shizznizzles. Because I thought ‘I’m special, I’m a little dude, I’m cool.’”

The “Got Respect Tour” arrived on campus after Titusville High School Principal Jennifer Gonzalez told campus administration about Hollyfield’s anti-bullying program. The presentation was set in the auditorium, with each presentation lasting the duration of one class period. Seventh-graders and seniors attended the presentation during second period, eighth-graders and juniors attended during third period, and freshmen and sophomores attended during fourth period.

“I didn’t know what I expected,” Kilynn L. (8) said. “I had no expectations. But it was better than sitting through [class]. It was something to spice up my day. He was good at what he did. He made me feel inspired to do anything.”

Hollyfield discussed his experience growing up with dwarfism as he was bullied and teased, but never gave up on his dreams.

“I can look into the audience and see where kids will go through a lot,” Hollyfield said. “Because they carried themselves not so as their peers would see with swag or they’re not as cool as they are, because they don’t have that charisma about them. Because they don’t really know who they are, they are kind of going through these motions. And people are just dogging them out, so that just makes the situation even worse.”

Growing up, Hollyfield attended Palm Bay High School. He said he played basketball, lifted weights and become a wrestler despite his height and the negativity of others. 

“I was never the type of person who felt like ‘Oh no, there’s too many people, they’re too tall,’” Hollyfield said. “I never felt like that. I want the person who feels like people look at them in some kind of way, and for them to say ‘I don’t care what they say, I love me.’ I want the underdog to become happy within themselves.” 

While Hollyfield said he has always worked to instill inspiration and self-love into others, his motivation to start his anti-bullying program came after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

“That was the most horrific shooting  — we’ve had worse since — but that started it,” Hollyfield said. “And that took me to ‘someone needs to be a voice, someone needs to take a stand.’ I want to talk to people, and I want them to understand that we are all different. And [and I want to] get them to see how important it is to have empathy and compassion, and respect for other people. I felt it was important for me to say something, and that’s where all of this got started.”

Hollyfield said he plans to continue visiting schools because when he is not in a school setting, he feels he is “not changing enough lives.” 

“I want people to feel that it’s OK to be you,” Hollyfield said.