‘I woke as much as hundreds of messages from Malaysia’

Laura landingPicture copyright
Luis Parsons

Picture caption

“The actual Melissa” in motion


London-based artist Laura Melissa Williams wakened one morning final week to seek out hundreds of messages for her on social media – all from Malaysia.

In a single day, the thirty-something Briton, who paraglides as a passion, had unintentionally caught the eye of the nation’s youngsters.


They’re within the means of taking SPM exams, roughly the equal of GCSEs.

And one of many English comprehension questions was a few fictional paraglider known as Melissa.

Picture copyright
laura melissa williams

The query described the fictional Melissa hitting a storm-cloud – like “being tossed round in a washer” – and having to be rescued from the roof of a farm by villagers.

Following the examination, a scholar seemed up the query on the web, discovered Ms Williams (whose center identify is Melissa), realised from her social media she was a paraglider – and the hashtag “The actual Melissa” was born.

“It is a weird set of coincidences that created the proper storm after which went viral,” Ms Williams instructed BBC Information.

It started with a whirlwind of humorous memes about washing machines and farms.

“At first, I believed it was humorous,” she mentioned.

Some thought Ms Williams was someway working with the Malaysian authorities.

However because the day wore on, among the feedback grew to become extra private and nastier – together with sarcastic posts about whether or not “Melissa” ought to have been paragliding within the first place.

“I checked with some Malay-speaking mates as I began worrying, I acquired a bit involved about any threats – they simply mentioned it was primarily immature,” she mentioned.

After which in a single day in UK time, Ms Williams discovered herself the topic of one other hashtag: “Cease cyber-bullying Melissa”.

Phrase had reached Arwind Kumar, a social-media influencer with practically 200,000 subscribers on YouTube.

And he had posted a video about Ms Williams wherein he mentioned: “There’s a positive line between making a joke and being extraordinarily impolite.”

Picture copyright
Arwind Kumar/YouTube

Picture caption

Arwind Kumar known as on youngsters to cease bullying “Melissa”

And from then on, Ms Williams mentioned, apologies had flooded in.

“I awoke to hundreds of messages of apology, from college students throughout Malaysia – a few of whom posted nasty feedback initially and now remorse it and a few who apologised on behalf of their cohort,” she mentioned.

She has since obtained invites to go to dinner in Malaysia, affords of presents, and apologies from faculty academics, influencers and the media. A feminine Malaysian paraglider acquired in contact to ask if they might take a flight collectively.

“For me that is probably the most superb factor about this – that the tide turned,” mentioned Ms Williams, who does not at present have plans to go to the nation.

“You hear stuff within the media about celebrities being bullied and that is the rapid factor that involves your head, that it is a bunch of 17-year-olds who acquired carried away, however that is the issue – it is group behaviour, folks do not cease and suppose.”

In whole, she has now obtained 210,000 Instagram messages, 30,000 tweets, numerous direct messages and he or she has additionally acquired 5,000 new followers.

“I now have a military of individuals as my protectors and standing up for what is true and ethical,” she mentioned.

Ms Williams is now contemplating creating an artwork exhibition primarily based on her expertise.

Surprisingly, it isn’t the primary time this has occurred – the SPM examination in 2018 featured a query a few fictional surfer named Sarah, which propelled Malaysian surfer Sarah Faudzi to Instagram stardom.

In September, Malaysia’s queen, the Raja Permaisuri Agong, returned to Twitter so as to categorical disappointment the police had been arresting individuals who had insulted her on social media.

“I’m actually upset that the police have detained these folks. By means of the years, my husband and I’ve by no means made any police report on dangerous issues mentioned about us,” she wrote, in line with the Straits Instances newspaper.

The tweet has now been deleted.