That girl in Rebecca Black video? She's cool

By THERESA WALKER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER That girl in pink? The one who danced so awkwardly in March next to friend Rebecca Black in the much-maligned viral video “Friday” that she caught enough online scorn to last anyone a lifetime? The one derided on Perez Hilton’s website and comedian Daniel Tosh’s Tosh.0 blog for her own song and video “Can You See Me Now” that debuted Sept. 1 on YouTube and iTunes? No need to worry that the vitriol aimed her way has so much as dented her 14-year-old psyche. Benni Cinkle is handling all the attention – wanted and unwanted – just fine. And unlike Rebecca Black, who turned to homeschooling because of what she describes as constant needling at school, Benni’s not getting teased in the hallways at Canyon High in Anaheim. Schoolmates asked the freshman to autograph their binders, their arms or, in one case, a banana. They even serenaded Benni with her song while doing laps in P.E. class. “It’s nice they took the time to learn the words,” she says. Benni – short for Bennet, a name parents Pati and Russ Cinkle (pronounced like sinkle) gave her in honor of singer Tony Bennett – wrote the words to “Can You See Me Now” a year ago after reading postings on, a self-described “place where people share hopes, fears and dreams and are treated in a non-judgmental way by a supportive community.” Of course, what happened to Benni is no secret. SHE SAT ON THE RIGHT This all started when Benni was invited to be part of the video Rebecca’s parents were having made through the Los Angeles-based Ark Music Factory. Benni says she simply responded to the director’s encouragement to be silly in the shot of her doing a kind of dance – mostly with her arms and elbows – seated beside Rebecca in a convertible. “It wasn’t a big deal. I was just with her in the car.” But those four seconds in “Friday” launched Benni, dressed in a salmon-colored strapless dress and smiling through braces, into Internet infamy. She was labeled “that girl in pink” in disparaging comments that poured in as “Friday” zoomed to 13 million views on YouTube within a week. “They said I’m ugly, I’m fat, I can’t dance and I should just go and hide because there’s no way I would ever make it,” says Benni, sitting across from her mom on a couch in their Anaheim Hills home. Benni, a natural blonde lately turned brunette, developed a sense of humor dealing with all the blonde jokes her family threw at her. So she laughed at most of the online chatter about her. She told herself: “They saw me for four seconds. They don’t know who I am. They’re just judging me for that dance.” She told her friends: “That’s not how I dance. That can’t be how I dance.” But a lot of the YouTube comments were vulgar, which upset Pati Cinkle, a businesswoman who founded Alar Staffing Corp. Pati, who monitors her three youngest children’s cyberspace activities, didn’t like that they couldn’t delete the inappropriate remarks. So they decided to take control of that girl in pink’s cyber destiny. IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT They took down Benni’s personal Facebook page and, a week after “Friday” went viral, launched the Girl Dancing Awkwardly – Official Page. More than 89,000 people have “liked” her fan page and she has maxed out at the Facebook limit of 5,000 “friends.” tarted tweeting and created her own microblog on Tumblr. She also has a Spanish-language following on Taringa. Through her social media platforms, Benni took on the “haters” by refusing to be cyber-bullied. Other young people – some teens, some young adults – began relating their own experiences being bullied or teased. She raised money to fight cystic fibrosis, taking part in a local walk and inspiring her fans to form teams in 14 places around the world. She led a grade-school flash mob at MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana to benefit earthquake-relief efforts in Japan. In July, under her mother’s guidance, Benni started the nonprofit That Girl In Pink Foundation and the website She wrote an e-book titled “That Girl in Pink’s Internet Survival Guide.” Among her five tips: “Turn things around so you feel good.” She explains how humor undercut YouTube critics: “Within a matter of hours people were noticing how I was handling the whole weird situation. Not everyone, of course. But enough that it became really clear to me that not everyone was a hater.” With “Friday” and its more than 160 million hits on YouTube behind her, Rebecca Black has a new single out and was named 2011 Web Star last month at the Teen Choice awards. That girl in pink? She is moving past those who are slamming her for the “Can You See Me Now” video. ALONG FOR THE RIDE The video, paid for by her parents, features a supercharged dance beat and a glammed-up Benni. Shots of her singing and dancing – not so awkwardly this time – are interspersed with short fictional scenes of kids her age dealing with such issues as teen pregnancy, self-mutilation and physical abuse. Sample lines: “So look at me now as I stand up and shout, No I’m not gonna disappear, I am one of a kind, I have made up my mind, Can you see me standin here.” Contributing poster Mike Pomeranz says this on Tosh.0: “Everyone should have their own ridiculously flashy pop music video with amazing production values and bright lights and big choruses. … As soon as it's done, send me a link. I'll blog about it. And you'll be famous. I swear.” But to Benni, who is fielding requests from kids to come speak at their schools, it’s not about fame. It’s about helping others. Pati says the video cost a fraction of what it could have because others involved in the production pitched in at a discount. The family hopes to donate some of the proceeds to charity. It’s gotten more than a half-million views on YouTube, but the “dislikes” outnumber the “likes.” Once again, that girl in pink sees the positive. “The haters have kind of been helping, because they spread it around and then it gets to that one person who needs to hear it,” Benni says. “It’s still the same me whether you love it or hate it.” Source: