Don’t Mess With the Fez
by Ronald Sklar
Actor Wilmer Valderrama lends his distinctive voice to an anti-bullying campaign.
As Fez on That 70s Show, Wilmer Valderrama played the funniest nerd who ever lived (“It takes a nerd to create a Fez,” he tells me). However, we all know that playing — and even being — a nerd is not always Klingons and candy.
Well, maybe it is candy.
Valderrama has loaned his everybody-knows-it voice to the Nerds candy brand (from the Willy Wonka company) in order to promote the much-talked-about “Stomp Out Bullying” campaign.
He knows whereof he speaks. Even though he was born in Miami, Valderrama moved with his family to their native Venezuela before returning again to the US. It was then when he got his first taste of being bullied.
“When I came to the United States, I didn’t even know how to speak English,” he says. “I didn’t even know how to count to three. Then learning how to speak English with an accent was even worse. Kids could be so cruel. I was 14-years old and considered inferior and somewhat dumb. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was very well educated and getting straight A’s. The sad part about it is that the educational level that we had in Venezuela was two grades ahead of America. I had learned everything two years prior to that, but I didn’t know how to speak English.”
Of course, being whip-smart as he was, he learned how to turn lemons into lemonade with ice. He personally rebranded, stamping his nerd-guy persona as “one-of-a-kind.” From that moment forward, he was leading the conga line.
“For me it was about how unique my accent was and how I expressed myself,” he says, “and most importantly, it was staying in touch with my roots that allowed me to stand my ground. And it allowed me to be who I eventually became.”
“Stomp Out Bullying” is an anti-bullying and cyber harassment organization for teens. It has teamed with Wonka to launch the “Nerds Unite!” campaign, to remind the world that we are all nerds at heart.
“That’s why I love this campaign so much,” Vilderrama says, “because I can relate to it so directly and so organically. I really wish I had someone at that age who told me, ‘hey, man, it’s okay to be different,’ to give me permission to be great, to be myself. When you hear that from someone you love and respect, from a parent or grandparent or someone you look up to, things could be really easier.
“It was the ability I had to be different [which allowed me] to create a career. I think teens need permission to achieve greatness. They sometimes feel that society or the entertainment industry or even our families set out an ideal for what perfection is, what beautiful is and what successful is. And those definitions and theories are often misguided. It’s hard to achieve them.”
Being that he was unlike any other snowflake in the storm, he drifted with that. It spun his life and his fate into a new direction, landing him on one of the most successful television series of the last few decades.
These days, his production company is working on a long list of projects for various networks, including MTV and Disney. In addition, he continues to appear before the camera, with a part in an upcoming Spike Lee joint later this year.
“I’m at a really good place in my life right now,” he says. “I’m reaching things that I’ve worked so hard to be able to do. I’m really proud of the choices I’ve made so far.”
|#1 © 2012. Wonka Foods. All rights reserved.|
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Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 18, 2012.