Madison Haulter’s perfect response to Internet trolls (who left fat-shaming comments on prom photos she shared on Twitter) went viral last week (even Chelsea Clinton gave her props!), but the teen says even though she was disappointed by the hurtful comments, she wasn’t shocked by them.
“I wasn’t surprised by the mean comments the photos received being about my weight,” the Indianapolis-based high school senior, 18, tells PEOPLE. “I think that was the focus of these comments because that’s what is easiest to find in the pictures. When looking at a photo of someone, their physical apperance is the easiest thing to identify.”
After Haulter posted photos of herself in a pink sparkly prom dress with her boyfriend Tre Booker, one tweeter commented, “Wow he loves you even though you’re fat.” Haulter simply responded, “[I] don’t see how people can be rude to people they don’t even know.”
The teen says she has struggled with body confidence, but has come to a place where she feels beautiful in her own skin.
“My weight and my personal image of my body has been something I’ve struggled with all my life,” she says. “Growing up I always got teased for not fitting in, and always compared myself to my friends or classmates. I hated my body. And I have luckily learned to love myself no matter what ‘flaws’ I may have. I’ve realized my curves are beautiful and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Everyone looks different, and I need to embrace my differences.”
However, as Haulter points out, none of those feelings can be seen in a simple photograph.
“What we don’t see is the heart someone has or the struggles they have been through,” she says. “That is why I stand so strongly against cyberbulling. It is so easy to just see someone’s profile online and make assumptions about them, but there’s more to someone than what meets the eye.”
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In addition to fat shaming comments, Haulter says her prom photos also received some mean comments about her being in an interracial relationship, but she’s able to brush those off as well.
“Tre and I love each other unconditionally and don’t see any physical factors as a deal breaker,” she says. “We see each other’s heart, and that’s what truly matters. I think with the society we live in, it is past time to treat everyone equally and not judge someone based on their skin color, gender, culture or weight. Love sees none of those things. Love is love.”
Haulter also offers advice to anyone else who has been the victim of online bullies.
“Turning negative comments that you receive into positive energy is how you take those comments in stride, and how I did with this experience,” she says. “There’s always going to be someone that hates on you or tries to bring you down, and you can take that information and say, ‘I know myself better than anyone else besides God does, and I’m just going to use this to grow from and become a better version of myself.’ “