Growing up in Brownsville, Texas, Gene Tapia was a victim of bullying. “I had a stutter as a kid,” he says. “I was chased after school and almost beaten up all the time.” Shedding light on this sensitive subject was the inspiration behind Tapia’s video What About Us.
Shot by L.A.-based photographer and videographer Chris Koehl, the video features three well-known teenage commercial dancers who’ve trained with Tapia since 2014 at the International Dance Academy Hollywood. Mia Mugavero, Sheaden Gabriel and Stacey Ohiane have more than 100,000 combined followers on social media. Although they’ve had big successes in their short careers, they’ve also experienced cyberbullying. When Tapia asked their parents for permission to be featured in his video, there was no hesitation. “Internet trolls bully and criticize these young kids on a regular basis,” Tapia says. “There’s so much truth behind what’s going on in the video. As a director and choreographer, I didn’t have to ask for much, acting-wise, because it’s so real for these kids.”