It all went down on Instagram on Sunday, where Mendes posted an inspirational message to his 45.3 million followers about overcoming obstacles and following dreams, no matter what.
He began his missive — written in the caption to a gallery of performance photos — by thinking back to 2014, the year he posted one of his first covers to YouTube. At the time, he was in 9th grade and a group of older bullies at school had gotten word, teasing him about it the next day.
“[They were] yelling out ‘sing for me Shawn sing for me!’ in a way that made me feel absolutely horrible… made me feel like a joke, like what I was doing was just stupid and wrong,” Mendes, now 20, recalled.
“It’s not joke to me,” he said. “To make someone feel bad about doing what they love… every single person deserves to do what makes them feel alive.”
The incident might have deterred Mendes from moving on, but he says he was “lucky.”
“I had the best friends and the best parents anyone could ask for,” Mendes says. “No matter what they would never let me stop doing what I LOVED to do just because someone ELSE thought it was stupid.”
But knowing that not everyone else has that support, Mendes decided to open up about it to motivate those going through similar things to rise above it — and also to discourage bullies.
“I’m writing this not only to the 15-year-old kid who’s scared to follow their heart because of what people might say, but also to the 50 year old who may be doing the exact same thing,” Mendes explained. “I know it’s not just that easy and I’m not asking you to change your world over night, BUT I want you to know that no matter how old you are, no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from… you deserve to follow your heart.”
“I’m here and I’m rooting for you,” Mendes added.
Lots of Mendes’ fans reached out to the two-time Grammy nominee with support, including former One Directioner (and Mendes’ pal) Niall Horan.
“Couldn’t relate or agree with something more If I tried…” Horan, 25, wrote. “We had the last laugh.”
Other celebs were also struck by Mendes’ words, including Julia Michaels (“Love this”) and his “Señorita” collaborator and longtime friend, Camila Cabello (“This is beautiful”).