Actor Wilmer Valderrama lends his distinctive voice to an
As Fez on That 70s Show, Wilmer Valderrama
played the funniest nerd who ever lived (“It takes a nerd to create
a Fez,” he tells me). However, we all know that playing
— and even being
— a nerd is not
always Klingons and candy.
Well, maybe it is candy.
Valderrama has loaned his everybody-knows-it voice to the
Nerds candy brand (from the Willy Wonka company) in order to promote
the much-talked-about “Stomp Out Bullying” campaign.
He knows whereof he speaks. Even though he was born in
Miami, Vilderrama moved with his family to their native Venezuela
before returning again to the US. It was then when he got his first
taste of being bullied.
“When I came to the United States, I
didn’t even know how to speak
English,” he says. “I didn’t even know how to count to three. Then
learning how to speak English with an accent was even worse. Kids
could be so cruel. I was 14-years old and considered inferior and
somewhat dumb. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was
very well educated and getting straight A’s. The sad part about it
is that the educational level that we had in Venezuela was two
grades ahead of America. I had learned everything two years prior to
that, but I didn’t know how to speak English.”
Of course, being whip-smart as he was, he learned how to
turn lemons into lemonade with ice. He personally rebranded,
stamping his nerd-guy persona as “one-of-a-kind.” From that moment
forward, he was leading the conga line.
me it was about how unique my accent was and how I expressed
myself,” he says, “and most importantly, it was staying in touch
with my roots that allowed me to stand my ground. And it allowed me
to be who I eventually became.”
“Stomp Out Bullying” is an anti-bullying and cyber
harassment organization for teens. It has teamed with Wonka to
launch the “Nerds Unite!” campaign, to remind the world that we are
all nerds at heart.
“That’s why I love this campaign so much,” Vilderrama
says, “because I can relate to it so directly and so organically. I
really wish I had someone at that age who told me, ‘hey, man, it’s
okay to be different,’ to give me permission to be great, to be
myself. When you hear that from someone you love and respect, from a
parent or grandparent or someone you look up to, things could be
“It was the ability I had to be different [which allowed
me] to create a career. I think teens need permission to achieve
greatness. They sometimes feel that society or the entertainment
industry or even our families set out an ideal for what perfection
is, what beautiful is and what successful is. And those definitions
and theories are often misguided. It’s hard to achieve them.”
Being that he was unlike any other snowflake in the
storm, he drifted with that. It spun his life and his fate into a
new direction, landing him on one of the most successful television
series of the last few decades.
These days, his production company is working on a long
list of projects for various networks, including MTV and Disney. In
addition, he continues to appear before the camera, with a part in
an upcoming Spike Lee joint later this year.
“I’m at a really good place in my
life right now,” he says. “I’m reaching things that I’ve worked so
hard to be able to do. I’m really proud of the choices I’ve made so