A Viral Twist on Bullying

Lizzie Velasquez is now a 21-year-old woman who is both a motivational speaker and the survivor of an extremely rare, somewhat debilitating physical syndrome. Velasquez’s condition in fact, is so extreme that medical researchers have no idea

lizzie-velasquez-motivational-speaker-worlds-ugliest-womanwhat to name her syndrome, since she and only two other people out of 7 billion on this planet have it. Lizzie was born without any amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac that surrounded her in mother’s womb. As a result, she is blind in one eye and cannot gain any weight on her tiny, skeletal frame. She weighs in at 64 lbs and will probably never be any heavier.  However none of this is the real problem. Lizzie has the insight to find positives in her condition. She jokingly brags “I can eat anything at all and never gain weight!”  The disability she suffers from is her body’s inability to gain weight. The handicap was the ceaseless bullying from people worldwide. And it all began, where else, inelementary school.

During a TED Talks appearance, Lizzie detailed her first experience entering school. She recalled it was Kindergarten. She arrived “decked out in a Pocahontas outfit and my knapsack looked like a turtle shell on my back because I was so small.” Lizzie walked up to a little girl and asked her to Lizzie-Velasquez-jeuneplay. When the child looked at Lizzie she “reacted like I was a monster.” Until that moment, Lizzie had no idea she was different. Hoping the rest of the day would improve, Lizzie set about trying to make friends but all of the children in her class rejected and avoided her. When she went home Lizzie asked her parents why other children didn’t like her. They told her to hold her head up and go to school knowing she was loved. Soon afterward, children at her school called her names such as Skinny Bones. In spite of her family’s advice, Lizzie was a lonely, unwanted schoolgirl.

When she reached middle school, Lizzie often woke up thinking she wanted to wipe lizziethe disease off of herself. Why couldn’t she just wash it away? In high school, someone made an 8-second video of her and placed it on Youtube with the caption Is this the World’s Ugliest Woman? 4 million viewers eventually saw it and there were countless cruel comments directed at her. A few of the meanest:

  • Lizzie why don’t you do the world a favour and put a gun to your head?
  • Lizzie if your parents knew you were going to be so ugly why didn’t they get an abortion before you were born?

lizzOther comments offered her instructions on how to kill herself. They called her “it” and “monster“. This video was the final straw in Lizzie’s life and “nearly broke her”. Even after public media has focused on the rash of teenage suicides in recent years due to excessive bullying, this video went viral and people reacted with ignorance and indefensible cruelty. Thankfully, rather than give up and choose the tragic fate of so many teen suicides, Lizzie did the opposite.

She got her supporters to rally around her and devised a personal campaign not only Lizzie-Velasquez1-638x425to survive the horrendous video but to strive toward success. Lizzie decided to become a motivational speaker for people like herself, with obvious physical differences. She researched “her brains out“in college, learning how to be a motivational speaker. Clearly, her efforts paid off. Within months Lizzie’s success went as viral as the cruel video that initially inspired her life’s work. Her books, detailing her struggle with her unknown disease, are worldwide bestsellers. She speaks to sold out audiences as a motivational speaker. Currently she is appearing in a documentary called FRET, which features celebrities Lee Ann Rimes, Adam Lambert and Richard Simmons. Lizzie has appeared on talk shows such as Entertainment Tonight and The Today Show. She also uploaded her own video onto It Gets Better, Dan Savage’s site for LGBT people who live with bullying due to their differences.

lizzieFamily, friends, fans and readers of her books offer her ongoing emotional support and are also the cheerleaders of her very successful life. In a wonderful irony, Lizzie has made her career in a highly public profile. It took a video that bullied and humiliated Lizzie Velasquez to change her life and in doing so, become a worldwide, visible celebrity. Take that, internet bullies.

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