Disney Star Kat McNamara Talks Bullying + Being A Teenage College Grad [INTERVIEW]

Photo: (Getty)

Photo: (Getty)

Being a Disney star and an outspoken advocate against bullying is cool, but when you add teenage college graduate to that list, you pretty much blow our minds! If you don’t know who Kat McNamara is yet, don’t worry — you will.

Fans of McNamara might recognize her from New Year’s Eve or the Disney Channel original movie Girl Vs. Monster. If you haven’t seen this up-and-comer in action yet, you’ll get your chance soon: She’s starring in two movies coming out later this year. One of the films, Contest, focuses on bullying in schools, which prompted the actress to team up with STOMP Out Bullying as a Global Ambassador.

+ Watch Kat’s PSA for STOMP Out Bullying

We caught up with Kat to talk about her post-grad plans, her personal experiences with bullying and much more.

ACT: You graduated college in March. What’s it like to be a 17-year-old college grad?

KAT: It’s very strange, but wonderful at the same time! It’s a bit of an accomplishment because I’ve gotten through so much of my education so early, but it is a lot of hard work. For me personally, because I love school so much, it’s been rather strange not to have homework to focus on and to do since March.

ACT: Why was your education so important to you?

KAT: Part of that is just who I am as a person. I’m very driven and very determined to do everything that I would like to do and get it done no matter what. But a lot of it, especially my educational drive, comes from my family. When I started in the entertainment industry, they always made sure that school came first. School was always the No. 1 my entire life. Education is so important; education is the one thing that no one can take away from you no matter what happens in your life. It can take you a lot farther than people realize. I wish my generation knew the value of education and didn’t take it so much for granted. For me, it’s a joy to learn. I love learning; I love expanding my knowledge and becoming a more well-rounded person. It brings me so much joy.

ACT: What are your post-grad plans?

KAT: I’ve had so much more free time; it’s been strange! But I won’t be that way for too much longer. I just found out that I was just accepted to the MBA program at the UNC-Chapel Hill at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business! … It’s a lovely program. I’m so happy to be a part of it! The lovely thing about that is I’ll be able to continue with my career as I have been as an actor as well as, you know, get my education.

ACT: What advice would you give to your fans who might not be motivated to stay in school?

KAT: My advice for people who are not necessarily the most motivated is to just take a moment and realize how much education truly means. Knowledge and education is the one thing that will never leave you in life, and you will have it your entire life. And it will serve you in so many more areas than you actually realize.

ACT: Not only are you an accomplished student, but you’re a successful actress. How did you balance school and work?

KAT: One thing I feel very fortunate about is that I don’t need that much sleep! I really just don’t need to sleep that much, so it gives me a few extra hours that I can really push if I need to. But part of it is because I love what I do so much. I love my career; I love my education. Both are such passions of mine that it’s really not a hardship for me to make time to get it done.

ACT: You tackle bullying in your upcoming movie Contest, and you support the organization STOMP Out Bullying.  How can your fans join this cause?

KAT: There are so many ways for kids to get involved with STOMP Out Bullying, which is why it’s one of the best organizations for kids and teens to help actually stomp out bullying. One of my favorite things about STOMP Out Bullying does is the first Monday in October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month, they have what’s called Blue Shirt Day. I can’t tell you the number of tweets and photos and letters and things that I get from kids who participated in Blue Shirt Day all over the world. For me, just knowing that if there’s a kid out there who is being bullied and if they see somebody walk down the hall that day in a blue shirt, they’ll know that someone is there for them, and somebody cares and somebody is there to support them.

ACT: Would you mind talking about your personal experiences with bullying?

KAT: I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve had people, even people very close to me, bully me for a long time, and it’s just … it’s very hard. What upsets me so much about it is that bullying has sort of become the norm. It’s become something that we prepare children for instead of warning them as a “just in case.” I don’t think that’s OK. I mean, bullying is such a horrific experience for all parties involved. It’s just something that needs to stop. It’s completely unnecessary, and it truly is a modern epidemic.

ACT: You’re always tweeting positive messages to your fans.  What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

KAT: I love quotes! I think my mother instilled that in me at an early age, because she would always hang quotes up on the walls of my schoolroom and my room; they were little words of wisdom I could look at when I needed some encouragement. One quote that has always stuck with me is and really helped the most in my life. … It’s an anonymous quote; no one knows who said it. It’s: “What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.” Just be true to yourself and never let anyone change who you are.

ACT: Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans?

KAT: Thank you so much for all the support! All of my fans are such an inspiration to me every day. All the sweet tweets and letters and things like that … it always amazes me. I feel so fortunate to have that support.

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