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Landon Benton is melting hearts already at 10 months old and it’s easy to see why. He’s got the piercing eyes, cherubic cheeks and killer smile that make the ladies swoon.
He has amassed more than 52,000 followers on an Instagram account that his mom set up to spare her Facebook friends from being flooded with photos of him.
But several months ago, a popular college football player posted one of Landon's photos on his social media sites and encouraged his friends to make up nicknames for the baby based on his size. People suggested “fat ass,” “diababies” and much nastier names that made Landon’s mother want to cry.
“In fact, I probably did once or twice,” Jessica Benton, 39, told TODAY.
The one nickname that stuck was “Stuff Curry,” an unkind play on the name of the Golden State Warriors superstar point guard.
At the time, Benton had no idea what the name meant until she typed it into Google and learned instead about Stephen “Steph” Curry, with whom her son shares a likeness.
“I thought, ‘OK, the guy has green eyes, curly hair, fair skin. If they made a Cabbage Patch doll of him, it would look like Landon,’” Benton said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re Stuff Curry, because Steph Curry is not a bad-looking guy.'”
After getting advice from her social media friends, Benton, a former blogger, flipped things around and embraced the moniker — but on her terms.
“I said we were going to own the name. We’re going to take control of it,” she said. “So I started hashtagging all of his pictures on every social network so when people did look up the name, they’d get the hashtag and would see something positive, not that same picture that’s been shared over and over.”
Benton’s urgency in fighting back against the online bullies stems from a personal loss she suffered while pregnant with Landon: the suicide of her 20-year-old son, Kevin.
Benton said her son wasn’t bullied in high school, but remembers one particular phase when he was 16 and complained about classmates saying mean things to him. She never heard Kevin speak of that time again, but she frequently wonders about it.
“You sit back and think, if I could have changed something to have him here now, what could have it been? That’s what sticks in my head — the negative, rude comments,” she said.
That’s why she’s so fiercely protective about what’s being said about Landon. She also doesn’t like to waste her time with people who make “uneducated and unknowing” comments about her parenting skills.
Landon, who is breastfed, eats fresh or pureed fruits and vegetables, and his mother tries to keep him away from all processed foods. Yet, strangers insist Landon is obese, or “one chocolate chip cookie away from a heart attack,” and joke he’s in need of child protective services.
“He’s 10 months old,” she said. "There is no diet breast milk for babies."
Benton said she also was a large baby and then spent 35 years fighting against being considered underweight.
While critics may be loud, most of the comments Benton receives on her Instagram account are from people who find Landon beautiful and celebrate every one of his chunks and rolls.
“I love hearing people tell me how he brightens their day and they look forward to seeing pictures of him,” Benton said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something right, because people are applauding me for standing up for my child and not letting people tear me down.”
Benton said she has yet to hear what the other “Curry” thinks about the miniature version of himself, but she's definitely rooting for him as he prepares for the NBA championship games against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Just in case, Landon will be wearing his Golden State Warrior apparel and “Curry” jersey.