EAST LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Only three days before facing off against Brie Bella at SummerSlam, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon headlined a star-studded Be a STAR rally at the Boys & Girls Club of East LA on Wednesday afternoon. Three hundred attendees, ranging from 5 year old to high school age, cheered for some of their favorite Superstars all while spreading the Be a STAR message of “Showing Tolerance and Respect.”
Be a STAR awarded $25,000 grants to five organizations across the nation to implement the Be a STAR program, of which the Boys and Girls Club of East LA was one. Anna Araujo, the organization’s Chief Professional Officer, has been leading the cause, which she called a tremendous success.
“Kids are now stepping up to defend the victims,” Araujo told WWE.com before the rally began. “They’ve learned to come tell us when something is happening. That has been monumental to help mediate before anything gets out of hand.”
The event was hosted by WWE announcer Renee Young, who began the rally by introducing all of the participants — McMahon, Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, WWE Diva Alicia Fox, WWE Superstar Sin Cara, and “Sharknado” star Cassie Scerbo. Araujo then invited up youngster Ricardo Espinoza, who read a self-penned poem about the destructive nature of bullying. Up next was McMahon, who asked the energetic crowd if they were WWE fans. After a unanimous answer of yes, Stephanie asked who among them had been victims of bullying, and all again raised their hands. But when the panelists also raised their hands, it was clear to the children that they were not alone.
Bronk and Congresswoman Sanchez both spoke of the power of the Be a STAR program, and the Congresswoman also mentioned that she had introduce a bill to make sure all schools nationwide implement an anti-bullying program.
Alicia and Scerbo both spoke of playing a bully as roles on TV, but also that it’s important to learn what not to do by watching their actions. Scerbo is one of 24 athletes, actors and musicians who joined together to form the S.T.A.R. Alliance this week to unite against the epidemic of bullying in communities.
“The kids are sponges for knowledge,” Alicia told WWE.com after the rally. “It’s important to be honest with them.”
Sin Cara spoke to the predominantly Latino crowd by alternating in both English and Spanish to relate to the bilingual attendees.
“I grew up in El Paso, Texas, which is a lot like here in East LA,” Sin Cara explained to WWE.com. “I was fortunate to follow my dream to be a WWE Superstar. To come here to tell my story is very important. It didn’t just make my day, it made my life.”
Sin Cara’s young son was also in attendance, and after he spoke about being a father, McMahon — herself a mother of three — once again assumed the podium to present award certificates to two individuals who made extraordinary contributions to extinguish bullying in their community. But the WWE Chief Brand Officer was shocked and nearly teared up when the kids themselves presented their own awards to the panelists.
“I did not expect to receive the awards,” McMahon later revealed. “It was very moving. To be able to make a difference in just one child’s life makes it all worth it. To think these kids want to reward us for coming to them is very humbling.”
The rally ended with an uplifting chant of “Don’t be a bully, Be a STAR!” sending the enormous and raucous crowd home with a positive message.
“I play a bully and villain on TV,” McMahon said after the event. “The message to take out of the character I play is who I’m playing against. When you look at Daniel Bryan or Brie Bella, their storylines are all about never giving up. They’re all about believing in themselves. Those are the messages we want to impart to the kids.”