From ‘School of Rock’ bliss to bullying to rebirth: Rivkah Reyes talks child star horror show

Courtesy Paramount Pictures


Bullying burns down good times, like a candle slowly sweating under the unwavering heat. Rivkah Reyes was just like most kids their age. Having the chance to be in a Jack Black movie was the opportunity of a lifetime. 
Reyes, who uses they/them pronouns, would later find out that movie bliss can have teeth and bite back at a young, unassuming kid just wanting to have fun. In a long-form discussion about life after stardom with the New York Post, Reyes talked about the trials and tribulations of being famous, even for a short time. 
The 2003 film was a smash hit, officially elevating Black to movie star status and grossing $131 million dollars on a small budget. The film resonated so deeply, a rock musical and television series were formed from its popularity. Reyes thought it would make life more fun and interesting at school; it was anything but pleasant. 
“People were either really nice, or really mean,” Reyes said after they returned to school following the film’s release. It got so bad that she hoped another big part would come their way, so Katie (their character’s name in the film) could be forgotten. Imagine that. You are 11 years old, and were just in one of the year’s most successful and enjoyable movies-and the kids at your school decide to bully you. 
Instead of asking about their time on set or working with Black, Reyes’ classmates gave them flack no matter how they reacted. Reyes could accept the accolades, and think people would look at them as bragging about it. But if they tossed it off as nothing, the kids would hone in closer and be much meaner. One time, Reyes signed a card for another classmate, and the girl just tore it up in front of them and tossed it in the trash. To say it affected them would be like picking up a dry paper towel and gently wiping a dirty table. The backlash broke them, sending Reyes on a spiral that would frighten any parent to their bones. Drugs, alcohol, self-harm, and various addictions took over their life. 
Let’s bypass the part where people assume their troubles shouldn’t have resulted in personal abuse and addiction. If you haven’t walked in someone’s shoes, the ability to speak for them becomes futile. As a kid and young man, I had a painful stutter that made most days a struggle in grade school, middle school, and high school. Kids bullied me to pieces, and it never stopped. Every day, it began and ceased at the bell, at least to the perpetrators. The victim feels that all night, and the next day. There is no remedy or medicine available for extreme bullying. The moment people understand that concept, the way to helping and stopping it will increase. You can’t just place “kids are resilient, it’ll be alright” on every encounter between 5 years old and 20. Reyes felt the blunt of everything at an age where joy should be the only goal. For them, it got real bad as years piled up. 
In a blog posted on Medium a year ago, Reyes wrote about using the drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, and that it all led to three suicide attempts. They wouldn’t work in film or television for 11 years later-and it was in a short film called “Cool Nerds.” Three years later, in 2017, they had a small role in a series called “Easy.” It was only recently that an identity change, both in name and body, seemed to replenish Reyes and place them on a new path. 
Last August, they officially announced the name switch, from Rebecca Brown to her current name, which according to Reyes, honors their Filipino-Jewish heritage as well as their fluid gender. Reyes has a podcast in the works, and four film/television roles that are completed or in post-production. The podcast will focus on where child actors are now, and it’s hard at a time like this not to think about Britney Spears and her struggles inside the world of fame. While Reyes only tasted a small piece of the pie that the pop star endured, it was enough to leave a large dent in their life. 
It’s something many take for granted, because the whole process can be so machine-like in that profession. Child actors and the extra focus and attention that such a job brings. Sometimes, you just go with it and see where the stardom goes. But it can be punishing. The one thing that never wavered over the years was their connection with Black and the cast. Reyes said there is a group text and that Black remains close, even giving backstage passes to his gigs. 
After living in the backstage for so long due to hateful abuse, Rivkah Reyes is ready to take the center stage back. Bullying has zero rewards, but it does have many survivors.