Rebecca Black’s childhood dream was to attend The Juilliard School in New York.
Far before the viral hit “Friday” was ever conceived, Black says she spent all of her free time performing.
“I was in dance groups, singing groups and musical theatre,” Black said in an interview with RISE NEWS.
A driven student, Black says she was always looking to her future, planning for college and life after high school.
“I was always thinking college, college, college”, Black said.
And that drive, according to Black, was where her song “Friday” originated.
A bubblegum pop song about what tweens get up to on the last day of the week, Black and her mother organized the recording of the song as a way for Black to boost her resume and get some performing experience under her belt.
“I just really wanted to go that extra mile at my school and get some experience,” Black said.
According to her, it was never really meant to go far beyond her circle.
That, of course, is not what happened.
When “Friday” was uploaded to Youtube by ARK Music Factory on March 14, 2011 it quickly went viral. In its first month online, the video amassed 30 millions views.
The 13-year-old Black didn’t know what to do.
Suddenly, she was propelled into the forefront of the public eye.
And with all of the sudden and unexpected attention came large amounts of criticism, directed both at the song, and Black herself.
It became one of the most “disliked” videos in the history of Youtube.
Eventually comments on the video had to be turned off due to the negative and hurtful nature of them.
Today, Black struggles to watch back interviews of herself in the weeks and months following the viral success of “Friday”.
The pain she was experiencing at the time, she says, is so clearly written over her face.
“I was so scared and so confused and had no idea what to do,” Black said. “I was hurting inside”.
Black herself admits there was no way anyone in her position could have been prepared for all of the attention.
“I just put on, or at least tried to put on, a really brave face”.
So, Black did what any person in her situation would do, and turned to the people around her for advice, all of whom had an opinion of what the teenager should do next.
But the advice, which largely came from music directors and talent managers at the time, wasn’t what she expected.
Rather than stepping down from the spotlight, Black went on to produce even more music, under the advice of the studio.
“A lot of the music was stuff that other people told me to make”, Black said. “I just thought I’ll listen to everyone around me because they obviously know better than me…I thought, I’m 13 and dumb”.
Sadly, the internet was more than happy to have another swing at the child star trying to make a name for herself, promptly tearing down all of her work.
The “dislikes” just kept piling up.
Black finally had enough, and in 2013 she split from her talent agent and went independent.
It wasn’t until the release of her song “Saturday“, a collaboration with Youtuber Dave Days, that Black finally felt like she had some control over her music career.
“[Saturday] was when I was able to take [my music] into my own hands, Black said.
The song itself almost acts as a parody of “Friday”, with witty references to old jokes and a sense of understanding that Black’s previous songs lacked.
Black herself admits that the song was less about making a serious single, and far more about making something fun for her own enjoyment- for the first time.
Around the same time, Black also reformed her roots on Youtube, signing onto the Youtube Network Maker Studios.
From her bedroom at home, Black began to upload casual videos, including question and answers, vlogs and song covers.
Black says that this was the time she finally began to feel free to do what she wanted creatively, free from a team of advisors telling her how to craft her image.
“It was very freeing to take it into my own hands and make content,” Black said.
Black also made a point on her channel to talk about her experience being bullied and share her advice with others.
Now, her channel has amassed a strong following of over one million subscribers, and the reception of Black’s videos today contrasts vastly with the reception of her old music videos.
Black believes this is due to the more genuine nature and rawness of her new videos.
“I could finally show a little bit more of me as a person in these videos”, Black said. “I was able to connect with others out there who have dealt with or a dealing with bullying, and I really hope that I have been able to reach them and let them know that it’s ok.”
Finally, Black feels like she can move on with her life.
She released a single called “The Great Divide” in 2016, during a period of time in her life when Black said that she started to accept everything that had happened to her since “Friday”
“The song itself is about letting go of the the people that might be holding you back, and also the parts of yourself that might be holding you back,” Black said.
And move on, she has.
In April, Black released a new single, “Foolish“, a song which she says truly shows her progression as an artist and her own growth, “ I think [Foolish] is very representative of how, stylistically, my tastes have changed and started to develop.”
Now 19, Black seems comfortable and at peace with her past.
“A lot of people ask me if I hate ‘Friday’, and I truly don’t,” Black said. “I never want to put down my own music”.
The young star’s level headed attitude is something to be admired.
Black knows that she can’t convince everyone to move on from “Friday”, and that she might always be known for its unbelievable notoriety.
But Black says that’s ok.
“You’re not going to be able to change everyone’s mind. You’re not going to please everyone,” Black said. “But at least I could finally start pleasing myself.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.
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Photos/ Rebecca Black- Facebook