Chloe McCarty was just "blowing off steam'' Sunday evening when she posted a music video about the medical condition that causes her to pull out her hair, and about the bullying she has suffered as a result.
The 12-year-old from Blaine never dreamed her YouTube post would generate global attention, apologies from classmates -- and eventually a phone call from the famed rock bassist Nikki Sixx.
On Friday afternoon, wrapping up a whirlwind week of viral video attention, McCarty received a call from Sixx, a leader of the rock band Mötley Crüe, to commend her for her strength.
"It's just [a story] about a little girl who had a webcam that I didn't even want her to have," said her mother, Jennifer McCarty.
In the three-minute video, Chloe flips through a series of cue cards that describe her condition and express her feelings. The background music is a song called "Skin'' by Sixx: A.M., which is Sixx's side project when he isn't touring with Mötley Crüe. Attention rose after Chloe posted links to her video on the Facebook pages of two band members, who then forwarded it to Sixx.
The rocker apparently sympathized with her, having overcome a heroin addiction and other challenges in his own high-profile life. He replied on Twitter: "Chloe, you made the most beautiful video for 'Skin' ... Thank you ... You are a role model ... Your strength will give others hope .... THANK YOU."
Chloe was diagnosed with a condition called trichotillomania around the time she started sixth grade at Roosevelt Middle School in 2010. Her mother said the disorder commonly surfaces at this age, when children deal with the stress and anxiety of moving on to middle school.
As she lost her hair, she also lost old friends who "exiled" and ignored her, her mother said. Direct bullying came online, she added. "On Facebook, they'd feel free to say whatever they wanted," she said.
The phone rings
The video has clearly struck a chord. One classmate apologized on Facebook: "Hey, I really like your video ... I'm sorry about being mean 2 u and judging u without really knowing the real u.."
The Trichotillomania Learning Center, a California advocacy group, contacted Chloe, seeking her help in spreading word about the disorder. "People don't want my story," said Christina Pearson, a founding director of the organization. "It's the children that people pay attention to."
As for Friday's conversation with a rock star, Chloe said the conference call from Sixx and the other two members of Sixx: A.M. was like a dream come true. "They were thanking me -- but I was thanking them the whole time. I mean, it was their song,'' she said.
Jennifer McCarty was working her night shift at a Walgreens pharmacy when her husband called last Sunday to tell her that her daughter had posted the video.
"My first reaction was, 'Oh my God, delete that!' " she recalled. But then her husband said she should watch it first, and that it made him cry.
By Friday afternoon, Chloe's video had more than 37,000 views, though her mother said that was after some copyright issues were addressed and the count was reset. A second video posted by Chloe thanks the many people who responded favorably to the first one.
Chloe's parents have encouraged her not to get carried away with the momentary Internet fame. The enduring benefit, her mother hopes, is that classmates will be less cruel.
Roosevelt Middle School Principal Greg Blodgett called Chloe a leader with many friends at school and said that, though she never formally reported bullying, the video is spreading awareness about health problems that can afflict students.
Chloe said Friday it feels a little strange to be treated so nicely by classmates who "were never that nice before.'' She hopes the episode will make school better for all students. "I have a lot of friends who get the same treatment,'' she said.
Friday's phone call had the air of a publicity stunt, but Chloe's family is OK with that, said April Hanson, her aunt. "That's fine. That's economics,'' she said. "But [it's] just amazing that people of that celebrity stature have such a level of kindness."
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744