Lizzie Velasquez - beautiful inside out
Lizzie Velasquez’s identity became known to the world through an act of cruel online bullying via a YouTube video; the 8-second long video shows a photograph of Lizzie and states “This is the ugliest woman in the world”. Velasquez responded, not with offense or defense, but with maturity belying her 24-years; she shared her story of hardship, struggle and hope with the world, and thus began her foray into the world of motivational public speaking and authoring books on overcoming hardships and discovering beauty beyond superficial appearances.
Her appearance is the result of an illness so rare, that only 2 people other than her are reported to have it. This illness, which is yet to be named, leaves her with zero percent body fat and no adipose tissue. She has healthy bones, organs and teeth and her brain functions normally. However, she is unable to gain weight, and consumes up to 5000 calories per day, eating every few minutes in order to keep her energy levels high. Some medical experts have remarked that she might have some form of neonatal progeroid syndrome*, which is not terminal. She is blind in one eye, and frail, but otherwise is able to look after and think for herself. Contrary to public assumptions, Lizzie does not suffer from an eating disorder, which many people assume after looking at her gaunt 60 pound, 5 foot 2 inch frame.
Lizzie’s childhood experiences involved being thought of as a “monster” because of her external appearance. People stared at her and passed cruel remarks, making her feel afraid and depressed. However, Lizzie’s father Guadalupe, a school teacher, played an active role in addressing the stares and remarks; he would bring his daughter to the front of the classroom on the first day of school every year, and introduce her by saying, “This is Lizzie, she’s just like you guys, she just looks a little different”. Lizzie says her father’s proactive steps really helped with addressing the issue, and while it did not completely stop the bullying, it gave her strength to carry on with her education.
Once in college, where she studied communications at Texas State University, Lizzie began authoring books on her life and ambitions, while speaking with various media channels against bullying. Her books, “Lizzie Bellisima”, “Lizzie Beautiful” and “Be beautiful, be you”, all share a common theme; surviving society’s harsh judgments and learning to embrace yourself for who you are.
Lizzie finds innovative means by which to tackle stares from people, she and her friends count how many people stare at her within a minute, and usually the number is between 12 to 27. She is unafraid about joking about her condition, often remarking that fitness companies and gyms should put her photograph on their ads, stating that using their service would make a person as skinny as her. She also finds it funny when people at her book signings and events want to hug her but end up just touching her instead, “I’m not delicate, I won’t break into pieces if you hug me”!, she laughs.
She leads her life like any other young woman her age; she loves Starbucks coffee and is adamant that all her clothes match with shoes and accessories. She states that she is happy with her appearance because this is how God wanted her to be, that it was part of his plan to make her the way she is. She states that if there were pills or a reverse liposuction method in the market, she would not use them because she is not interested in altering her appearance. A devout Christian, she believes that the illness and her consequent struggle are her God-given purpose in life, and she would not change that for anything. Now participating in a documentary about her life, and collaborating with celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Ellen Degeneres for a campaign called, “The Friendship Movement”, Lizzie Velasquez is a busy young woman who is making an impact on the world with her life story, and it is hoped that she will inspire not only people who are struggling with bullying, but also the bullies themselves to reconsider their actions. Lizzie Velasquez is an inspiration and a hero.