brightcove.createExperiences(); Paige VanZant is finally ready to return to the site that caused her so much pain during her teenage years.
The UFC fighter describes herself as someone who likes to hide her emotions in public.
“I’ll cry alone in my room instead,” she’s said with a laugh. But after opening up on Dancing with the Stars about being severely bullied in high school, VanZant is finally ready to return to the Oregon town that her family moved from so she could escape the relentless bullies.
“I recently got asked to go back to the town and speak at a school my aunt teaches at,” VanZant told PEOPLE after Monday’s DWTS season 22 performance finale. “I’ve been wanting to speak to students for a long time now but I just wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. So what a better place to start than the town where I had my own problems.”
VanZant believes her message about bullying is even more important now than when she was in school.
“It happens to everybody, but with social media I feel like it can be even worse now,” she told reporters. “You can’t change everyone. There’s going to be mean people out there. But no matter what you’re going through, there is a brighter future and the hurt and pain you’re feeling is real but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It’s a message she was glad to tell in her final dance with partner Mark Ballas on Monday’s show.
“I’ve used this as a platform to inspire people,” she said. “Just like in the song, I’m somewhere over the rainbow. I went through it and I’ve come out the other side.”
VanZant is one of three finalists who could be crowned the winner on the Dancing with the Stars season 22 finale on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.