Getting real. Paul Calafiore, who started his reality TV run on season 18 of Big Brother, opened up in a new interview about his past – and why he is the way he is today. Calafiore, 29, will appear on the upcoming season of The Challenge: Final Reckoning, and has received a great amount of backlash over the years – in the Big Brother house, for speaking down to his showmance mate Zakiyah Everette, and on The Challenge, for cheating on his girlfriend Danielle Maltby with Cara Maria Sorbello during the season. (The season has yet to premiere, but he’s already addressed it on social media.)
However, when visiting the “Challenge Mania” podcast, he revealed that he’s very passionate for speaking out against bullies and always has been. In high school, he was bullied because of his looks.
“I had really, really long blond hair like Sunshine from Remember the Titans, so they would call me Sunshine, call me a fa—ot, they would try to corner me in school,” he revealed. “I developed a passion towards kids who go through s—t. I always stood up for kids in high school who went through it, whether it made me unpopular or not, because I didn’t care about being part of the cool kids crew. I didn’t care about being part of the popular clique. I cared about doing what was right because I knew that would make my mother and father proud.”
After his time on Big Brother, he began raising money to stand up for those who get bullied online – the way Zakehyah did when she got home from the show.
“The girl I was dating was catching a lot of heat on social media for being with me because of the way I played the game. She was saying how she wanted to kill herself. So I decided to raise money for the CyberSmile foundation, to try to turn a negative into a positive,” he revealed, adding he’s been working with survivors of rape or domestic violence for years, even being part of program in college. Eventually, he came up with The Rise Up, which uses positive actions to empower youth and stand up for others.
“When I talk to the youth and when I talk to people who are survivors there’s always going to be that darkness from bad situations. I’ve been there,” he continued. “I’ve been at low points of my life where I’ve contemplated suicide, and it takes a really strong person to be able to come out and admit that. I’ve had my own s—t happen to me in my past, things that I haven’t even told my family about, things that I haven’t even come out publicly about, as to why I support certain things, about sexual assault and bullying.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).