Numerous SCV organizations have taken a stand against bullying, but one Santa Clarita man is taking a beastly approach.
Stephen Tako, 48, has enlisted in the fight against bullying with more than one form of media, including dressing up as a Yeti.
“So many talented people are beaten down and feel that they are not worthy of things and they’re not capable,” Tako said. “They don't rock the boat, they don't go out and don’t do anything extraordinary.”
Tako has lived in and around the Santa Clarita Valley for nearly two decades
Tako, along with thousands of others, has experienced bullying and endured the long-lasting effects that bullying has.
“‘A Damaged Child’ is the first chapter I wrote in my book, ‘Motivated To Act.’ The chapter is about the bullying I endured as a kid and the terrible relationship I had with my own father; how it really did beat me down, how it made me settle for less than I deserved in life because I didn’t think I could get anywhere,” Tako said. “I really believed it -- Why would I think I could start a business and be successful.”
He then decided it was his mission to spread awareness about bullying, eventually coming up with his imposing, furry character to teach children about the effects of bullying and how to overcome being bullied -- Junga, a dancing yeti.
“I was in a short film called ‘Abominable,’ I played the father Yeti. It was a cute film, only five minutes long,” Tako said.
“I asked the crew if they would film me dancing to the song ‘ Hungry Like A Wolf,’ and I did a whole big dance number for the crew and everyone was busting up laughing watching me dance,” Tako said. “I’m 6-feet, 7-inches tall and the yeti costume was made specially to fit me, so I asked for it.
“I started developing a character (named Junga) and started to realize I should make anti-bullying character who is judged by his looks -- scary looking, a monster, a demon, he wants to kill when actually he is just a nice, friendly character that wants to dance, enjoy life and doesn't want to be hunted or screamed at,” he said. “He is the mascot for anyone who feels they're judged because of color of their skin or have because they have different choices.”
When Tako is not in character or making videos with Junga, he regularly makes Youtube videos where he interviews professionals and everyday people who deal with bullying.
“I had a psychologist who was my guest (on the show) and we were talking about the Santa Clarita Shooting Scare that happened a couple weeks ago,” Tako said. “She talked about getting into the mind of bullies and terrorists and understand why they do what they do.”
Tako plans on hosting his Youtube show “Tako Talk” and making videos with Junga in the future, but his goal is to speak to kids and teens about bullying at schools across Southern California.
“I could picture myself going out to elementary schools as Junga and reading that story to kids,” Tako said. “I really want to go to all the middle schools and high schools and give talks as myself.”
He is also writing another book, this time for children.
The book’s title is "Junga, the Dancing Yeti" and Tako hopes to have the book published for the upcoming Literacy and Arts Festival put on by the SCV Education Foundation. He attended the event last year.
“As an actor, I worked on the film “Oz the Great and Powerful” as a witch’s guard,” he said. “When I was on set, I thought about Dorothy’s adventure on the yellow brick road, and then thought about my own adventure.
“Here I am in Hollywood, on this beautiful set, standing next to James Franco,” Tako continued. “I look down and I'm standing on the yellow brick road where so many things are possible. You have to rock the boat, go out and explore and do the things you want to do.”