In the United States alone, 59% of teens have been cyberbullied, even at the elementary school age. Almost 20% of all children are bullied each year.
Bullying is evolving. It’s become easy to hide behind the facade of a computer screen, or behind the words texted on a phone.
But recent University of Colorado graduate, Anya Berlova, is here to reverse and prevent the damage done by bullying. And hopefully stop it for good.
“I saw instances of bullying while I was at school, and over time I learned how big of an issue it is. It’s truly a global problem,” says Anya.
Anya is the founder of two anti-bullying startups, Anya Berlova Studio and Funtasia Digital, an incoming PhD student at Yale University, an international speaker, illustrator and creator of the Sheepers and Puggie Instagram series—a brand devoted to standing up against bullying with the help of its two mascots, a sheep and a pug who travel the world and respond to events. The characters are illustrated by Anya herself.
“Sheepers and Puggie are my startup’s mascots,” says Anya. “People have bonded with Sheepers and Puggie and the positivity that they carry. In a way, they are like virtual companions and travel buddies.”
Anya also has a clothing line featuring a collection of shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags with illustrations and slogans she has created.
“Fashion is a powerful art form, it has the capacity to make someone feel confident and empowered and can also spread meaningful ideas and messages,” says Anya. “I want my fashion line to appeal to people of different ages and genders, and for every person who wears my apparel to feel hip and sassy.”
Anya’s ventures aim to create an impact in society, by encouraging people to build resilience against bullying and peer pressure and embrace what makes them unique.
“I was drawn to the idea of using creative tools to spread positivity and empower people because I believe that art can be a powerful tool for spreading ideas,” says Anya. “Each method of expression that art encompasses, whether it is illustration, fashion, music, film, etc., is a unique language that speaks to the audience in its own way, but it’s also a universal language that can be understood and experienced by many.”
While studying at CU, Anya also started Buffs Against Bullying, a community of students with a common goal to take a stand against bullying and educate students and community members about bullying prevention and confidence-building, and spread positivity and kindness.
As an international speaker, Anya speaks about ways we can tackle societal issues such as bullying and loneliness at several TED Talks.
“I have given TED Talks in Eustis, Florida, as well as the University of Sussex and De Montfort University in the UK,” says Anya. “It was great to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas through such an inspiring platform.”
Anya’s talk at TEDxEustis focuses on the topic of “What apes can teach us about bullying,” and her talks in the UK relates to using technology and the creative sphere to tackle loneliness. All are available to stream on YouTube through the TEDx channel.
Anya also gave a presentation on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship in Tokyo, Japan.
Bullying often goes unnoticed and is often is kept secret by the victims. Anya hopes that her work will give confidence to victims to share their stories.
“If you’re being bullied—please tell an adult, whether this means your parents, teachers, counselors or even a national helpline. Do not try to handle the situation entirely by yourself,” says Anya.
“Also, I believe it is very important to remember the following: trust your unique. I created a slogan that I use in my projects: Show Your Unique ®. I use ‘unique’ as a noun, defined as ‘all of the positive and interesting outer and inner qualities that make you—you.’ Some people may not understand and appreciate your unique and bully you because of it, but you have to know its value,” says Anya. “And when you do, no bullies will stand in your way.”
To learn more about Anya, visit anyaberlova.com or you can find her on Instagram at @anyaberlovaofficial.