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16-Year-Old Pop Artist and Mental Health Advocate Whitney Woerz

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16-Year-Old Pop Artist and Mental Health Advocate Whitney Woerz

Pop artist Whitney Woerz has two YouTube hit singles with over 10 million views, and a fan base of over 42,000 people. All of this at just 16 years old. Why is the world obsessed with her? It’s not just her stunning voice that’s redefining the pop landscape, she’s also a passionate advocate for the social issues her songs are inspired by. She uses her voice not just to make innovative music, but to communicate with her fans and raise vital awareness on mental health issues. Issues that the music industry can often sweep under the rug.

Photos by Andrew Boyle

Being young and an advocate for teen mental health and body positivity is an influential aspect of your brand as a musician. You’re changing the idea of what a pop star is, and that’s powerful. Can you talk about why you’re passionate about these causes?

I had the urge to write my first song after a friend from social media reached out and said she wanted to kill herself and was cutting. I didn’t know what that meant at the time –  I was 12, so I called the suicide hotline. They said to stay with her, but she lived in California, so I couldn’t.  Instead of feeling helpless, I sat down and wrote her a song, ultimately sending her the recording. She said she was thankful someone listened, and the song helped her feel better. If I could make one person feel better through my songs, I wanted to do it for more.  In middle school, I went through depression and anxiety myself, and the issues weren’t talked about. I want to end the stigma. No one wants to talk about it, but it’s important. I work closely with Glenn Close’s organization Bring Change to Mind. Social media is a huge aspect affecting mental health today. We all feel the need to meet this image, and cave into pressures. Social media opens up a whole world of bullying.

Do your fans ever reach out to you with their troubles?

For sure. Fans still DM me, asking me stuff, and sharing their stories. I try to respond to every single one.  It can get consuming and intense, but I love it and I love helping them if they’re struggling. I always make sure to relay to them that they’re not alone, and that there are so many other people going through this because it’s true.

Apart from being an advocate, have you personally faced social media backlash and dealt with bullying?

In middle school, I was bullied a lot. And it was face to face. There are haters out there, thankfully not many, but I definitely have gotten the odd Youtube comment telling me to kill myself. At 14, that stuff was tough to hear. I took it pretty hard the first week, but never dwelled on it. Fortunately, I’ve learned not to be affected, and my natural confidence helps me in that respect. For those who are dealing with social media bullying out there, you need to know that you’re an amazing person, and the reason for someone else throwing their negative energy your way could be due to so many things that they’re projecting due to their own insecurity or pain.

Do you deal with ageism or other prejudices in the industry for being so young?

Honestly, people don’t believe that I’m 16. Usually, I think it’s funny, and take it as a compliment. I see myself as a pretty mature person, and my voice is mature as well – so when people first see me, they might treat me like a kid, but after they hear what I have to say and my voice, they take me more seriously. Either way, I always try 100% to prove myself.

Did moving to NYC contribute to your ability to adapt to the entertainment industry and grow up so quickly?

I moved to NYC right before high school and it was amazing. I hated being trapped in a bubble of a town, and once I moved to New York, the opportunities have been endless. People have been much more interested and supportive. Everyone in the city has a sense of maturity, and as I mentioned previously, I’ve always felt mature for my age, so I fit into this town much better, and that made it easier to be taken seriously as a professional.

Do you find it important to know who you are and embrace self-expression, not just as a musician, but as a young woman?

The most important message to me is that everyone is their own unique person, and everyone has a purpose. We need to remember that. Learn to love yourself. It’s not easy, but I have. Once you accept who you are and what you look like, life will just improve. If you think positive things, they will manifest.

How would you describe your music? 

I would categorize myself as alternative pop, at the moment. It doesn’t fit into your standard cheery, Disney teen pop, but it has the ability to be versatile and radio-friendly as well. As I continue to work, my sound keeps developing. I have so much unreleased stuff – my work seems to be going in an alternative direction, but also contemporary. I want to explore music that will be a prediction – tracks with a new and innovative sound which won’t only be relevant today, but in a few years, as well.

Who are your favorite musical inspirations and influences?

My number one influence would be Lorde – everything from her lyrics, to performance and musical styling really resonates with me. Apart from that, my favorite band would be 21 Pilots – their lyrics go into depression and mental illness, and really resonate with me.

Where did the video concept for “Idea of Her” come from? 

It actually wasn’t conceived as a breakup song, and more about embracing your true self. The “Idea of Her” video presents two different Whitneys. One of them is on a photoshoot set, looking pretty and perfect, while the other is inside a darkly lit, glass box. Which is darker, representing a trapped Whitney who is yearning to break out. The trapped girl eventually breaks the glass and metaphorically ends the version of herself that’s trapped by perfection and unrealistic expectations. People are portrayed as perfect on social media, but it’s important to showcase who you really are, and I wanted to get that point across in the video.

Does that make you feel more vulnerable to be so honest and authentic, or more rewarding?

I would say definitely rewarding. My feelings are written into my songs, but they’re also geared to be relatable. If I have the courage to say it, then people will reach out and connect, and we can relate together. I’ll know I’m not alone, and the same goes for them. It’s more rewarding than vulnerable, for me.

How do you balance your lifestyle with school and work, and taking care of yourself?

I do go to school full time, but have to leave to do music, so it can be hard to juggle. I’ve always been good at finding a way to get everything done. I try to never tap out, and always do my best. Of course, after all the work is done, I try to hang out with my friends.

What advice would you give to other young women and girls who are either starting out or who have just gotten their foot in the door of the music industry?

I always tell people to start a Youtube channel. I started one and millions of people gravitated towards my videos, and connected to the underlying message. Just get a camera, set it up, and start posting whatever you want. Getting yourself out there is the first step.

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