Almost two decades after School of Rock came out, fans still recognize Rivkah Reyes as Katie, the 10-year-old bass player in Dewey Finn (Jack Black's) band.
The actor, who uses they/them pronouns, got their big break by appearing in the 2003 film and is grateful for the experience. However, Reyes is now opening up about how the role ultimately led to a 10-year battle with bullying and addiction.
In an interview with the New York Post on Tuesday, March 2, Reyes recounted being bullied by classmates after the film was released.
"Especially after production wrapped, when I first came back to school, people were really nice or really mean. There was no middle ground," they said. "I was literally followed around the school with people chanting School of Rock."
Reyes hoped if they landed another, bigger part, "they'll stop calling you Katie," they told the outlet. Harassment from kids and strangers contributed to Reyes becoming "a raging addict" and forced them to eventually overcome "a lot of demons," they said.
The former child star previously gave some insight into their difficult past by writing a Medium article in March 2020, revealing they had been in recovery from alcoholism and addiction for two years.
Reyes wrote at the time, "From the age of 14, I used drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and self-harm to numb all of this pain. I've survived dozens of toxic relationships and three suicide attempts. I'm not saying all of this is because I played bass in a movie when I was a kid but because I spent over a decade terrified that I'd peaked at 10 years old."
They recalled one of the cruel experiences they faced while in school in Chicago, saying, "Because kids are a--holes, I was bullied even more when I came back to school. I'll never forget one girl who came up to me and asked me to sign her lunch card, then tore it up and threw it in the trash in front of me."
Reyes went on, "Kids would scream School of Rock quotes at me in the halls. It was annoying and embarrassing. I constantly felt trapped. If I reacted to them positively, I was labeled a bragging snob. If I reacted negatively or ignored them, I was labeled a cold, ungrateful bitch."
The Bad Animal actor also said they developed an eating disorder following their time on School of Rock. "Upon seeing myself on the big screen at the premiere, I judged myself for being the tallest girl in the cast, for having bags under my eyes and weird teeth, for having a fat belly and no breasts. I started hating my body and developed an eating disorder," Reyes shared.
They even "felt unsafe existing" due to obsessive fans. "Grown men would sexualize me," they wrote. "When I was in sixth grade, a strange man in a trench coat came to my school and tried to take photos of me, and absolutely nothing was done about it."
Reyes still gets "really gross" comments on social media from "dudes who had a crush on the 10-year-old me." (Now, their friends "never hesitate to drag those goblins.")
However, Reyes seems to have positive associations with the cast, and continues to keeps in touch using a group text.
"It was nothing but love and support," Reyes told the Post of the on-set experience. "I have never lost gratitude for that, or wish that I wasn't part of it."
Black has also remained close and gave Reyes tickets and backstage passes to his gigs in recent years, according to the Post.
Reyes, who identifies as a "self-acceptance warrior, queer filipina jewitch" on Instagram, now does tarot card readings and is working on the upcoming podcast Where Are We Now, featuring other past child stars. Amid of the renewed public outcry about the media mistreatment of fellow teen star Britney Spears, Reyes noted their journey is "kind of parallel with Britney's."
The Post reached out to Black for comment.
Read the full Medium post here.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).