Jonny Drubel is part of the ensemble cast of E!'s Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, yet another entry in the reality series sweepstakes. Since its debut in January, Rich Kids has drawn sharp criticism for its "narcissism" and glorification of material wealth. And like much of the negative publicity these days, the bad reviews seem to have attracted viewers, many of whom no doubt would love to sample the idle-rich lifestyle. The show quickly garnered a sizable fan base, averaging a million viewers per episode. Only nine episodes were produced for the freshman season, but the series returns for a second season in August.
But Drubel is focused on something else other than just the rich kid lifestyle -- and this one is much closer to his heart. And it comes from his past.
"I was lucky that my parents were tree-huggers, hippies," the openly gay Drubel said. "They told me they loved me, supported me, and asked me who I was dating."
The young man wasn't so lucky in school. He was, at that time, an obese 350 pounds, and was bullied relentlessly.
"It was really bad," he said. "Words do hurt you. I didn't tell my parents about it, I was ashamed that I couldn't stand up for myself. A lot of gay kids don't tell their parents."
Drubel objects to the common usage of the word bullying in popular culture, pointing out to cast members of the Real Housewives series bandying the word about over every minor disagreement.
"No! You're taking away from the word," he said. He pointed out that coming from wealth isn't a shield. "If kids want to bully you, they will. Some of it's torture."
Drubel today is a slimmed down, soft spoken young man who's using his wealth and new found fame for the greater LGBT good. He pointed to the recent "It Gets Better Project," in which people from all walks of life shared stories of bullying from their pasts, assuring kids not to worry, that things would get better.
"What happens until it gets better?" Drubel asks. "How about an online community where people can share those stories." He refers to the recently launched website Coming Out Matters as "my baby," and reports that his partners at Students Moving America are helping to help promote equality in schools.
"We have a long way to go," he mused. "We have to make sure kids are safe. Kids in Kentucky, for example, can come to our site, share their stories, and hear stories they can relate to. So far we have 15,000 submissions, mostly videos. That's 350 hours of content. Every single submission tells a story."
The Coming Out Matters site features a link on making a submission through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, while The Live Stories option allows visitors to hear the stories of others. Drubel hopes that hearing these stories will make kids feel "supported and safe."
Stories recently posted at the Coming Out Matters site include"I Wish Every Parent Reacted Like This" "It Really Does Get Better," "Does Gay Conversion Therapy Work?" and "The Woman Who Changed How Police Treat Transgender People."
Drubel said that he'll be talking about his own experiences of having been bullied on the second season of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, but in the meantime you can check out the Coming Out Matters site for what others have faced.