Davina Leone Discusses Bullying & Her Upcoming Album!

19-year-old singer-songwriter Davina Leone is on her way to the top! She's raked in over 2 million views on her YouTube channel  and is close to releasing her debut album, "Awake." But it wasn't always easy for Davina. Throughout middle and high school, Davina was bullied for what set her apart, to the point that she kept her singing a secret.

Learn all about Davina Leone in this exclusive Sweety High interview!

Davina Leone

Can you tell us a little bit about how you started singing? How did you get discovered?

I started singing at a really young age, I was about seven or eight. I just remember being in my room for hours every single day replaying Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera and trying to imitate their voices, putting outfits on and dancing in front of the mirror. I'd watch musicals all the time like "Annie" and "Fiddler on the Roof" and would sing along to them all night instead of doing homework! I just knew it made me feel good, and I knew I wanted to be a performer.
When I was fifteen I joined my school's band and I had people coming up to me telling me I should really pursue singing, which was a huge surprise since I didn't think my voice was anything special! So I posted my first YouTube video of me singing the song "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. It was just a black screen and my voice cause I had no idea how to hook up a camera!

I got really good feedback, people said my voice was making them happy and to post more so I wanted to make more videos. With time I got better and better at technology and taught myself guitar so I wouldn't have to sing with karaoke tracks. And it all kind of caught on from there.

When I was about seventeen, Donny Wightman found me on YouTube and recommended me to songwriter Richie Supa who had worked with Aerosmith and Pink. I went to one songwriting session with Richie and we worked extremely well together, before I knew it we were meeting twice a week and had written a whole album!

Davina Leone- For the Haters

We love your anti-bullying song "For the Haters." Can you tell us a little bit about your own experience with bullying, and how you dealt with it?

Oh Gosh, school was a very difficult time for me. In middle school, I got bullied for not being as pretty as the other girls in the grade who straightened their hair and wore makeup. They'd call me ugly to my face and say things like "nobody wants you here, go away" in the middle of class in front of everyone.

I remember going home everyday and just picking up my microphone and singing along to my karaoke tracks. I'd film myself to see my progress. I would just keep busy any way I could. I'd make little movies with my camera, which was so dorky looking back on it! But it kept me from being self destructive and spending time thinking about it.

In high school, when I began to dress and look like most of the girls to blend in, I started getting bullied for my singing; for being different. It had gotten to a point where I didn't want anyone in my new schools to know I sang because it would immediately draw attention to me which most people would try to tear down by starting horrible rumors. Which was really hard since it was like I was hiding who I was, just so people wouldn't taunt me.

I went to four different high schools because of rumors that drove me out of the schools. I think social media was really a very easy way for people to be bullies. They would go on those anonymous forums and just say random hurtful things to me or even message me on Facebook saying things like "you're gross" and turning all their friends against me. At that point I was alone a lot. I thought there was truly something wrong with me for that many people to feel the need to say those things.

But every time I got sad I remember having a playlist of my favorite songs that would just make me feel better. So I started to write songs, poems, stories, I'd dance, anything to express my emotions so they weren't bottled up inside. And it was like a therapy to me.

As the years went on I made friends who were also different like me, who didn't really fit in. They defended me which was so important because it made me feel stronger and safer. Since then I defended anyone who was bullied because I know how it feels, as well as know how amazing it is when someone steps up for you. I realized that bullies really have issues with themselves, which is why they want people to feel as badly as they do on the inside, but you just need to be above it and surround yourself with better people or activities.

What inspired you to write a song about the issue?

A really close friend of mine started a terrible rumor about me that spread through my entire school, and I remember thinking "why would she do that, why do people do that?" And I wanted to write a song that really had an empowering message, rather than a victimized one. I thought, "I don't want to write a song about being sad, then they win." I wanted to write a song that people could sing along to and feel great about themselves and just kind of tell off the bullies. That "you can try to hurt me, but you cannot destroy me" message.

It seemed like there was so much negativity surrounding bullying, like focus on the suicides, the horrible statistics, the hurt. I wanted to break that wall and address that you can be strong and you can survive because at the end of the day, things will get better. High school does not last forever! There is always going to be someone who doesn't like you for whatever reason, but instead of turning that inwards and trying to judge yourself, you should tell yourself "it's not my problem, it's theirs. I'm going to smile and be successful." When you feel good about yourself, it's so hard for people to bring you down.

It's fantastic that you advocate the idea of loving yourself as much as you love others. What do you suggest to struggling tweens and teens to help them be more accepting of themselves?

I think finding a hobby that you really enjoy is the key! Whether it's art, acting, sports, even schoolwork, if you keep yourself busy with something that makes you feel genuinely good, you'll feel like you're benefiting yourself which helps you grow.

Find out which areas of yourself you like so you can accentuate them. Also writing down lists daily of things you like about yourself can really help remind you how awesome you are. It could be things like your smile, your courage, or even the dorky way you sing in front of the mirror!

You got your start on YouTube, which can be a really rough place for aspiring singers. What advice do you have for young girls who are forced to deal with the kind of negativity that's prevalent on YouTube?

I learned to ignore the negative comments. It's hard at first when you're just starting out because you think "Am I good? Do I stink?" so you kind of rely on other people's comments. But I always told myself that singing is not a competition. I don't think talent or beauty in the arts can be measured. Singing is fun, it's a great way to express yourself and it's cool to put it out there so other people can enjoy seeing you have fun and smiling. I don't think it's valid for someone to say something like "you're bad" because you're just having fun and being who you are.

"Defeat the Label" is an awesome anti-bullying organization. How did you get involved with them?

I was about to release my song "For The Haters" and thought "I really wish I could team up with an awesome organization who is all about this message!" I really wanted to make a difference with this song and kind of begin a "love yourself" campaign that I would have wished was around when I was bullied. I contacted them and they really liked the message of the song so we teamed up!

Your debut album, "Awake" is coming out soon. Can you tell us a little bit about the album?

The album is just a journey through my life. I started writing it in high school up to right now so there's a definite change of perspective somewhere in there. There are sad songs about heartbreak, exciting songs about taking the leap to fall in love, powerful songs about loving oneself, and of course ooey gooey love songs for when you meet that special someone that sweeps you off your feet. We all need them! I know that I like to have the perfect song for when I'm in an awesome mood and want to dance, or just want to cry.
In the album there's pop sounding songs, some acoustic sounding ones and vintage inspired ones! I didn't want to be defined by a genre since I enjoy singing every type, so I incorporated that into the album. I wanted there to be a song for every mood so I can be there for people when they're down, happy, uncertain, or even partying with friends and feeling amazing.

What is it like to work with your brother when you make your music?

At first we didn't get along at all! I remember my parents hoping so badly that we would work together because we were both into music, but it was hard when we were younger because we were into different styles and couldn't agree on anything.

Now, we get along great and we have an awesome understanding of each others' preferences and songwriting habits so we really make a great team. He'll come up with guitar parts and I'll write to them, then he'll make an arrangement, or I'll come up with a song and we'll work together on the arrangement. Right now we live together so it's really easy to just knock on his door and be like "hey do you like this idea?" and then instantly start working on it.

What has been the most exciting moment of your musical career so far?

Oh man, there's been so many! I think there are continuous exciting moments whenever someone tells me something like "I'm at Universal Studios and your song is blasting through the speakers!" or "I heard your song at the store!" It's such a full circle moment since I remember being at those theme parks and stores not too long ago, looking up at the screens and thinking "I wish I could be on there. Someday."

Now my childhood friends are calling me saying they saw me on TV and I can hear their excitement which gets me so happy! Knowing that my hard work has brought my music to that point is unbelievable and I'm so thankful for those moments.

Are there any artists you dream of working with? What upcoming projects are you working on?

I really really love Macklemore, I think he's a great lyricist with powerful and positive messages about overcoming struggles and equality, so I'd definitely love to work with him someday. I think it'd be an awesome collaboration.

Right now, I'm writing lots and just recorded three new songs in the studio that I plan on releasing with "Awake"! I'm super excited about them because I wrote them with my brother while I was in LA living on my own and finding myself. I'm really psyched for fans to get a feel for who I am because I like to be as transparent as possible in my songwriting. I am also directing and filming a new music video for a song I'm releasing very soon! In a few months I'm playing a show in Maine which my band and I are preparing for! So a lot of cool stuff coming up.