Kayla Andrews is accepting Jacob Hoggard’s apology.
But she won’t accept his offer of a free trip for two, to see Hoggard’s band, Hedley, live in concert.
I will explain why in a moment. But first, a quick recap.
Kayla attended the Hedley concert last week, and ran into a couple of band members afterward, in a downtown bar. Two of them were very gracious, posing for photos and hamming it up, but she got a different reaction from the band’s lead singer, when she tapped him on the shoulder.
Hoggard turned around, glanced at Kayla, said, “Hey! Look, it’s a midget!” and burst into laughter – before turning his back on her.
“When she came home Friday night, Kayla was so upset,” said her mother, Jackie Andrews, in an interview. “She said, ‘You’ll never believe what happened down on George Street,’ and she told me… The hurt in her eyes. As a mother, it was devastating. I was in shock. I said, ‘You know what, Kayla? You have a voice. I think you should use it.’ So all weekend, she was quiet. Then, on Monday, she phoned me from school to say ‘Mom, I posted a comment on the 99.1 (HITS FM) page on Facebook.’ I said good for you, but I had no idea it was going to go like this.”
I saw Kayla’s comment and contacted her, asking if she’d be willing to talk about it for a blog entry. After some hesitation, she agreed. The item was posted Tuesday, May 29.
Immediately, the traffic was brisk. The entry had about 1,000 page views on that first day. Many were linking to the item on Facebook and Twitter. By end of the next day, it had “gone viral” with more 6,000 hits.
When Jacob issued his apology on Thursday afternoon, the entry had more than 15,000 page views, had been shared more than 2,000 times on Facebook and was generating considerable online discussion, including at Hedley’s own Facebook page. Here is what Hoggard posted on the wall of that page on Thursday afternoon:
Our fans are our number one priority. The reason we’re where we are today. This is why it saddens me to hear a comment I may have made in St. John's was hurtful to one of you, and for that I am sorry. Those who know us, know that we always try to go above and beyond for our wonderful fans and it was never my intention to alienate or offend anyone. If someone knows how we can reach Kayla, please let us know. We would like to fly her and a guest to one of our Canadian festival dates this summer, and apologize to her personally.
When I spoke with Kayla that evening, she said she was “taken back” and “blown away” by the controversy caused by her story. She said she visited The Telegram site many times on Wednesday, following the comments that were being posted there.
“When I noticed how the page views and Facebook links were increasing so drastically, it hit me… I knew this was going to be really big. I certainly haven’t experienced anything like this in my life. It’s the first time I’ve ever spoken out (publicly) about anything. But I am glad I got the message out. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Kayla was born prematurely with renal failure, spent most of her toddler years in hospital, and received a kidney transplant at age four. Her illness decreased her ability to grow taller than 4 foot 7. Mother Jackie said Kayla was bullied in school, but had assumed that ended upon graduation.
“She was in an adult atmosphere, where you would never dream that another adult would insult you like that. It’s very hurtful, especially for someone who has been bullied.”
Jacob Hoggard said his comment “may have” been hurtful, which is half-hearted. In my view, he is not taking full ownership of what he said. It’s also surprising that it took him more than two days to respond, given that he was informed about the story immediately after it appeared. But it is an apology nonetheless, and Kayla is happy with it. However, she is turning down Hoggard’s offer of a trip for two to a Hedley concert.
“If he would like to, I would rather he donate that money to the Kidney Foundation,” she said, adding that extracting some kind of reward from Hoggard was never her intention.
“It was never my intention to have ‘15 minutes of fame.’ It was to confirm to Jacob that he did wrong by insulting me… My intention was to tell Jacob that he’s got to step inside his fans’ shoes. He’s got to realize that we are his fans. Like, who wouldn’t want to get a picture or chat with their idol? He’s got to learn to control himself. He wouldn’t be what he is today without his fans… I also wanted to inform fans that you don’t really know who you are idolizing. It’s an eye opener. It was for me.”
Last time I counted, the blog entry had generated about 175 comments from readers, posting from across the country. Some were highly critical of Kayla, attacking her for calling their idol out on his behaviour, though most were supportive of her and critical of Hoggard.
“I’m relieved that the majority of comments are positive,” Kayla said. “Otherwise I’d lose my faith in the world. I definitely expect negativity, especially from some of the hardcore fans. That’s only natural.”
The final word goes to Kayla, and the closing sentence from the message she sent last night to Jacob Hoggard:
“Thanks, Jacob. It’s been an incredible few days. I learned a lot from it, and I hope you have too.”
The Telegram is also following the story today. You can read their coverage here: