Singer/songwriter Alexandra Kelly is raising money for the Tyler Clementi Foundation by selling one of her songs on Hotathon.com. Kelly is seen here at the Rutgers Student Center in New Brunswick, N.J., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. (Gannett, Jason Towlen/(East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune) / Jason Towlen, (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune
EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Like many in the Rutgers University community, when Alexandra Kelly heard that freshman Tyler Clementi had jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death in 2010, she was stunned. It hit her even harder when the root cause was said to be bullying.
Kelly, then a sophomore, couldn't have foreseen that two years later her music would link her to the Clementi family and the foundation it created. Since the fall, her single "Perfectly Imperfect" has been raising awareness and funds for the nonprofit organization.
"Tyler's story affected me and my community at Rutgers," said the 22-year-old Fair Lawn, N.J., native. "I knew how his death affected me and my community. The fact that they - at the Tyler Clementi Foundation - work to help kids come out in a comfortable and safe space. They are there for them. And now the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers will be there as well."
Clementi jumped to his death in September 2010 after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man. Dharun Ravi was convicted in March 2012 of 15 criminal counts, including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. He spent 20 days in jail after being sentenced to 30 days in May.
When Kelly was 16, she wrote a song based on a poem written by her sister, called "Perfectly Imperfect."
Kelly confessed that the root of the song comes from both sisters' experiences growing up.
"We had been bullied," she said. "In high school and middle school, people were mean to me about my music and my passion for it. I didn't talk about my music then. When I did talk about it, people said I was conceited and self-centered, so I stopped. It was hard for a while. But if I hadn't gone through that, maybe I wouldn't have gone out on a limb for what I wanted.
"We wrote the song to help people realize that they are perfect just as they are," Kelly said. "You do not have to rely on anyone else to be who you can be and to define who you are. We wanted to get some message out to anybody who is feeling there is something wrong with them at whatever point they are in their lives."
Musical acts and charities join forces
About a year ago, Mikal Celentano of Middlesex, N.J., launched Hotathon, seeking to pair musical acts with charitable works. By donating to charities through music downloads, Hotathon raises awareness and funds simultaneously for the chosen nonprofits.
"People are inspired by music. It has the power to bring together and do good things. So, the song becomes a call to action for the charity," Celentano said.
The requested donation is $2.99 for a premium download, but people are welcome to give more, Celentano said.
"Without thinking, we spend $2 to $3 daily ..." she said. "You can spend the same and get a single and donate to charity at the same time. And you will have that single forever."
Celentano, who heard Kelly sing "Perfectly Imperfect" at a student event at Rutgers, approached the singer-songwriter.
"I was told how Hotathon pairs musicians and nonprofits through music downloads," Kelly said. "When they asked me if there was any organization that I was interested in, without hesitation I said, 'The Tyler Clementi Foundation.' Tyler was a musician. We were from the same area of New Jersey. We were part of the same community and I have always been an ally of the gay community for many years. I admire how his family has made his story and his legacy have purpose."
Usually Hotathon, whose offices are in Bridgewater, N.J., reaches out to the nonprofit, but in this case it was Kelly who made the connection.
"I wrote to Joe Clementi and explained that I was a singer-songwriter who would love to do this project if they would allow me to," she said. "Without a doubt, that is what started my relationship with the foundation and the family."
Now Kelly calls Tyler's brothers James and Brian Clementi her friends, and she has the deepest respect for his parents, Joe and Jane Clementi. She has helped with the launch of the Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers and hopes to continue working with them on future projects, including a concert fundraiser.
Celentano said the average donation for a song on Hotathon is $5, but "Perfectly Imperfect" has been garnering a higher average.
"Alex's song is seeing an average donation of $7," she said. "Someone even donated $18 to download the song. We are very excited about the support she is getting through this campaign."
At this point, Celentano is seeking out musicians because the site is so new. The company prefers to deal with original works, such as "Perfectly Imperfect," rather than cover songs.
A 2012 Rutgers graduate with a major in communications and minor in music, Kelly hopes it is her passion - music - that will be her full-time profession. For now, she works as a barista by day at the Vagabond Cafe in New York, where she has also performed.
With two CDs under her belt, Kelly hopes to record a third this summer. Both CDs - "Love and Lies" and "It's Complicated" - are available on iTunes.
Copyright 2015 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: N.J. singer fights bullying with her song