- - Monday, September 19, 2016

Peer pressure, bullying, critics, religion, politics — there aren’t many topics or challenges that 19-year-old “Duck Dynasty” star Sadie Robertson will shy away from.

The best-selling author feels a new sense of confidence that she hopes to pass along to others as her “Live Original” tour gets underway in Allen, Texas. The tour features music, dancing and motivational speeches designed to help teens and young adults deal with issues like depression, body image and social media.

“I think there’s so much peer pressure and so much bullying and insecurity, but I think it may just be like that because that’s how the world is,” Miss Robertson said during an exclusive interview with The Washington Times. “With social media, it’s really hard to stop bullying. But I think … everybody needs to work on being confident in themselves. Instead of being fragile, be solid. Because if you’re solid, nothing can shake you. No matter if people talk about you … you’re going to be solid in what you believe, so it doesn’t really matter.”

Miss Robertson draws inspiration from the life of Rachel Joy Scott, the 17-year-old high school student who was the first person shot to death during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado. Another nearby student who was shot but survived said later that Rachel was killed shortly after telling one of the two killers that she believed in God.

Rachel had been an outspoken Christian on campus, which oftentimes put her at odds with her classmates. She kept a detailed journal that included entries addressing the ostracization and bullying she faced as a Christian. That journal helped to inspire the new film “I’m Not Ashamed,” which follows Rachel’s short-but-influential life as she deals with her parents’ divorce, high school and her decision to become a Christian.

Miss Robertson turned down the lead role in the film opening Oct. 21, but claims it wasn’t because she wasn’t interested in the subject matter. She instead plays Charity, a much smaller part.

“It was my first movie. I wanted it to be great, and I knew that I needed … to take acting classes,” she said of backing away from the lead role.

Miss Robertson’s character Charity is one of Rachel’s cousins in Louisiana, who helps to guide her troubled relative to faith in Jesus. Miss Robertson’s mother, Korie Robertson, and sister, Bella Robertson, also appear in the Pure Flix film.

Rachel is played by relative newcomer Masey McLain.

Some critics have already dismissed “I’m Not Ashamed,” claiming that it does nothing more than exploit the tragedy at Columbine for religious purposes, a claim Miss Robertson quickly dismisses.

“In the midst of a terrible tragedy, Rachel’s story remains something positive,” she said. “There was a light in the darkness. I think that [it’s] story that can influence so many people. Just like 9/11, a terrible, terrible tragedy, a horrible thing, but New York came together — our country came together. There were so many amazing things that happened, like highlighting the police and firemen, highlighting the people that did amazing things. This movie is highlighting this girl who did an amazing thing in a tragedy.”

Miss Robertson was also seen in another faith-centric film, “God’s Not Dead 2,” which premiered in April.

“For the movies that I’ve been in, they’ve been really inspirational,” the actress said. “Whatever I do, or whatever I’m in, I try to make sure that it goes along with my faith, my message and who I am.”

While Christian films have won over larger audiences and more critics, Miss Robertson said Christian views are still underrepresented in mainstream media, and that lackluster productions may bear some of the blame.

“I think that sometimes people have a bad taste in their mouths for Christian things, especially movies, because they’re known to be cheesy at times,” Miss Robertson explained. “I think that’s not necessarily the [audience’s] fault, but I think that we, as Christians [making] the movies, have to work harder to make sure that it’s not only for Christians — that it’s a message for everybody.”

Christian values have largely gone over well with millions of viewers who regularly watch “Duck Dynasty,” on which Miss Robertson appears alongside family members in the hit reality show. Now in its 10th season, the show, which weaves together comedic family moments with biblical values, has garnered the highest ratings of any A&E production.

“The thing that gives us the most joy is hearing about families that have come together through our show. That’s just so amazing,” Miss Robertson said. “Whenever you put God first and honor God, God blesses that.

“And sometimes it won’t be good at first. You know we did get a lot of hate in the media, and we did get a lot of bad press, but it’s worth it if families are coming together and families are being inspired. That’s huge.”

Politics are another interest for Miss Robertson. She credits her father, Willie Robertson, for helping her to make political issues more of a priority.

“I’m glad he did that for me, because I know how to talk about it and not just say that I’m voting for this person because my parents are, but I’m voting for this person because this is what I found and this is what I believe in,” she said.

Like her dad, Miss Robertson is supporting Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race.

“I do support Trump. I just really — I didn’t decide right off the bat. My dad was pretty much on the Trump train from the beginning. My mom and I really did a lot of research, and we looked into it, and now that it’s down to two … I think Trump is the best candidate.”

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