EAST MANATEE -- Teenage girls, bedecked in Converse of all colors and pink T-shirts that read "Ooh La La" in loopy letters, squealed from the bleachers Monday in pure adoration.
The source of their glittered glee was Bethany Mota, an 18-year-old YouTube beauty guru whose videos have gone viral among teens across the globe. Since 2010, the California girl's bubbly broadcasts have amassed nearly 400 million hits and spawned a clothing line with Aeropostale. In front of a camera, Mota advises fans on what to wear to school and how to decorate their rooms. More than 5 million subscribers tune in to watch her morning makeup routine.
In Braden River Middle School's gymnasium, 460 fans filled seats to hear about her journey from bully bait to beauty queen.
In eighth grade, Mota said she was severely harassed, causing her to quit the things she loved -- dancing, acting and singing. She became a reclusive, anxiety-ridden young girl who barely ate and spent most of her time in bed, she said.
Never miss a local story.
Until she logged on to YouTube, a website for video-sharing, and began to watch other girls make videos about their "makeup hauls" -- what they picked up from MAC, Sephora and their local drug stores.
As Mota began to make videos herself, she pulled herself out of the fog. She said she began to ignore what others said.
"It really made me upset, and then I just realized it's nothing to take personally. That person might be having a terrible day and they just want to make someone else feel bad," Mota said.
Braden River guidance counselor Traci Cristello came across Mota's videos after her daughter urged her to watch. Cristello emailed asking Mota to speak to Braden River Middle and Braden River High students.
"I wanted her here, because when they feel down, they watch her videos and they make them feel happy," Cristello said.
Mota shed light on ways to cope.
"Don't let it get to you. Just know at the end of the day, you are strong and there's people that love you even if sometimes it doesn't feel like there is," she said. "It always gets better...You have to let yourself get through it and everything you go through makes you stronger."
An eighth-grader named Samantha asked: "The person that bullied you -- what do they think of you now?"
"I have no idea," Mota said. "But I feel in a way I'm thankful I got bullied, because I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't."
Eighth-grader Skylee Miller, wearing one of Mota's "Ooh La La" shirts and a matching Mota skirt, said she had been waiting to see her idol all weekend. Miller was one of 25 students granted a meet-and-greet afterward for getting good grades.
"Every time she posts a video, it kind of gives me motivation," Miller said. "When she's happy, I'm happy."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.