When Alicia Turner's son revealed that he'd been called names in school, the memories came flooding back.
As a child, Turner's friends and family would call her ugly. Those childhood taunts have followed Turner all her life. For years, she's struggled with thoughts and worries about her appearance - avoiding mirrors and pictures.
Now, her own son was being mocked for his appearance. Another child had pointed out, regularly, that her son was shorter and stockier than other boys his age. Turner urged him to embrace his stature. After all, she told him, it likely helped make him an MVP on his football team for a couple of years. (Turner and her husband also quickly took matters into their own hands, talking with the school administration and the other child's parents to ensure the name calling ended).
And then Turner, who lives in Durham, realized that she needed to take to heart the lessons she was teaching her son.
"It made me face my issues," Turner said. "Now I take pictures of myself everyday. I have mirrors all over my office. It reminds me that I'm beautiful."
The healing for Turner began last summer as she helped her son. Just a week after learning about his experience, Turner started writing. It turned into a children's picture book, called "Hey Ugly," which Turner self-published in December. The book follows a girl who is told she's ugly and eventually comes to realize that she's not, boosting her confidence and self-respect.
The goal of "Hey Ugly" is to show the effects of bullying and how much it can harm a person's self-esteem.
"The book shows how when you're feeling ugly how different you see yourself," she said.
Already, Turner, a case manager for the Granville County social services department, has had the opportunity to talk to two groups of kids to share the book and the message. "Hey Ugly" also has stirred up conversations among adults, who share their own stories of childhood bullies and taunts.
Now that the book is out, she is working to line up more opportunities to spread her message about bullying and to encourage kids to embrace and love who they are.
"It's written for children, but it seems to strike conversations for any age," Turner said. "It's not written for fame or fortune. I just want it to reach whoever it needs to reach."
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