Photographer: Danny Hernandez; Hair & Make Up Artist: Allison Noelle; Stylist: Alonzo Johnson; Jewelry: Onyx-T; Swimsuit: Toxic Sadie
If success is the best revenge, Mollee Gray has gotten even with her bullies many times over.
Before she was known by tweens worldwide as the bubbly Giggles on Disney Channel’s Teen Beach Movie, which premiered on July 19 to 13.5 million viewers, she was an outsider in her junior high school’s in crowd.
“I was part of the popular group, but I was an outcast,” says Gray, who was born in SLC and raised in Orem. “They wouldn’t invite me to sleepovers, and if I was invited, they would end up doing something to me like putting toothpaste on my face. They would always tease me and would do things behind my back, and it was really hurtful.”
While her friends tormented her, Gray, who was trained at The Dance Club in Orem, turned to performing.
“I heard about an audition when I was 12 years old for a Disney Channel movie,” she says. “Kenny Ortega was directing it, and we didn’t think it was going to be a very big movie.” But the film was the first of the successful High School Musical films shot at East High School. The series inspired stage productions worldwide, and the third film screened in theaters, earning $42 million during opening weekend. Gray danced in all three films.
She graduated from Timpanogos High School in 2009, the same year she was a top-eight finalist on So You Think You Can Dance. Two years later, she made a mark on the big screen as Sari in No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Recently, she launched a music career with two singles on iTunes.
As a rising star, Gray speaks out for others who are bullied, like she was, and she recently designed a T-shirt for clothing line The Brand UR, which puts 20 percent of its proceeds into anti-bullying scholarships.
She’s amazed by how her actions affect fans. One even wrote to Gray saying she was considering suicide, until she was inspired by one of her So You Think You Can Dance performances. “I messaged her back, and I was like ‘You think that I inspire you, but that message you just sent me meant the entire world to me,’” she says. “I cried like a baby.”
Gray lives in Los Angeles, but comes to Utah every few months to visit family. “I didn’t appreciate how beautiful Utah was until moving out to LA,” she says. “I miss the scenery, I miss the snow on the mountains and I miss being able to go snowboarding in the winter. I miss it a lot actually.”
Along with performing and speaking out against bullying, she’s on her best behavior around girls. “The fact that girls are looking at me and I’m a role model is so cool and makes me never want to mess up—ever.”