But it's not always that easy for people to shrug off bullies, Gonzalez said.
"A lot of kids don't want to tell anyone they are getting bullied," she said. "They don't want their parents to worry. They don't think anyone will be there for them. They don't know there are hotlines to help with school bullying."
The state Department of Education has a toll-free hotline: (877) SAY-STOP.
Gonzalez said she kept bullying to herself when it happened to her because no one told her "it was OK to talk about." That's something she said she hopes others avoid because students who don't talk about it can become withdrawn. Eventually it's possible for them to "explode" by taking violent action towards others or themselves, Gonzalez said.
She aims to stop that.
"That's my platform," she said, adding that she relates with Hispanic students who might be picked on for their race or background.
"I want to specifically reach out to the Hispanics," she said. "I want to reach out to people going through that kind of discrimination and say, 'It will be OK. I know because I've been there. It's different when you're older.' That's why I do pageants."
Gonzalez admits she never thought she would participate in pageants.
"I used to think it was all about outer beauty," she said. "I tell my friends I do pageants now and they think, 'You do what?' Because I was so against it. But it's about lifestyle. It's not about getting on stage and walking around to show how pretty you think you are.
"It's about eating healthy and taking care of yourself, about being well-rounded, about intelligence, about reaching out to the community. Before, I thought it was dumb."
That changed when friends asked her to take part in the Chica Latina 2013 pageant in May to help promote their local radio station, Conexion Kaliente 93.9 FM.
"It didn't go too terrible, but it was my first time talking in front of 400 or 500 people," Gonzalez said. "I tried talking, but I blanked. I saw the other contestants, they were so beautiful. But when they (the pageant judges) asked me about bullying, I spoke up about what I experienced."
Being runner-up and winning $300 made pageants more appealing.
"I thought it would be a good way to pay for school," Gonzalez said. "Then I realized how pageants can help the community. That's another thing I want to tell people now that I'm involved in them."
Being part of the Miss Tennessee Latina pageant meant more than dressing up in gowns and looking beautiful, Gonzalez said.
"There was so much going on behind the scenes, reaching out to the community, showing that you had a platform," she said.
In fact, Gonzalez says she was judged more on her "platform" against discrimination and bullying than her looks.
"It's more about community outreach," she said. "Not about being pretty."
That alone has turned Gonzalez from condemning pageants to possibly becoming a regular at the competitions. What are her chances to win Miss Latina US?
"Well, there's a lot of beautiful girls in it," Gonzalez said. "But you never know what will happen."
(c)2013 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.)
Visit The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.) at daltondailycitizen.com
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