Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This a mantra many of us have said, wishing it to be true. It typically takes people till they’ve reached college to find a state of self-acceptance; some never reach this point. High school bullies are nothing to laugh at, their words can be more damaging than a physical blow, but somehow we make it through. For better or for worse we end up on the other side. But can you imagine, for just a moment, being told you were the ugliest human being on the planet. Not only by a classmate but by a complete stranger, over YouTube no less. So imagine, a person has just verbally ousted you as the ugliest person in the world and to your horror you realize there are over 4 million views with thousands upon thousands of comments agreeing with this antagonist. How could you possibly recover from such a traumatizing event? Well, Lizzie Velasquez not only recovered but she flourished.
Lizzie Velasquez is a 26-year-old woman suffering from Marfan Syndrome and lipodystrophy. These are disorders where you’re not able to gain weight, suffer from premature aging, and a field of other problems. When Lizzie was just 17-years-old she was on YouTube for a school assignment. She clicked on an eight-second clip of “The World’s Ugliest Woman,” and didn’t realize this woman was her till it began. “Why would her parents keep her?” and “Kill it with fire,” are just some of the horrifying comments she read below the clip. She couldn’t stop with just one; she ended up reading all of the thousands of comments not talking to friends or family about it for days, due to her shock and deep sadness (BBC).
“It was a long process of being really sad, then being really angry, then saying, ‘I need to take this into my own hands. How can I turn it around?'” she said. ” It was scary. But I wanted to have control over what I showed people who I was” (ABC).
Lizzie’s entire life has been filled with situations like these. When she entered elementary school she had no idea kids would treat her differently and had to navigate, as a six-year-old child, the way to brush off negativity and move on. She attributes her success in large part to her parents who have felt nothing but unconditional love since the day she was born. Even though they were told that she wouldn’t live long and would need constant care that did not deter them from treating her like a normal child. They were the ones that encouraged her to be in cheerleading, to go to the mall, and to just live life as she should. So when Lizzie discovered this horrible video she only had one option – to prove everyone wrong (ABC).
After the mourning period, Lizzie began formulating a video response. This response reached thousands of people, and nothing but positivity flooded her newsfeed. This led her on a quest to learn public speaking and ultimately inspired her documentary “A Brave Heart,” which ended up premiering at SXSW.
“If I ever see that person [who made the video] I would jump on them and give them the biggest hug in the world and tell them, ‘Thank you for bringing the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life,’ ” she says. “That video changed everything and it has given me the platform that I have now to be the voice for anyone who’s ever been bullied – and not just myself” (People).
Can you imagine having that type of attitude? It’s something that’s almost incomprehensible. Her YouTube channel now has more than half million subscribers, and she has positively impacted thousands of women. She receives emails daily from young girls and women who struggle with a range of issues, whether it is image, bullying, or just general unhappiness. They thank her for her positive spirit and have let her know how she has touched their lives and helped them reach a complete 180. Her range of activism goes further than her YouTube channel; she had a TED Talk and has teamed with Tina Meier whose daughter Megan took her life after being ruthlessly bullied online (BBC).
Lizzie Velasquez is an incredible inspiration to every single female in the entire world. She suffers from painful physical ailments on a daily basis and somehow maintains her positivity. Mix that with brutal public criticisms and Lizzie could very well be a superwoman. Her love towards those who have shown her nothing but criticisms is incredible. Take a moment to search your heart and soul and imbue your actions with some of her unyielding love and positivity.