“The only way I could show those people that they weren’t going to become my definition and my truth was to somehow make myself better.” – Lizzie Velasquez
Growing up in Texas, Lizzie Velasquez was teased, gawked at or sometimes downright ignored. She remembers her first day of kindergarten and noticing for the first time in her life that other kids were scared of her.
Lizzie’s parents treated her like everyone else. But the world did not. Lizzie remembered going to amusement parks and feeling like an attraction. Groups of adults would stop mid-conversation and stare at her. She refused to go to water parks because she couldn’t stand to be in a bathing suit in public. She used to constantly feel as if she had to introduce herself to people by saying, “Hi, I am Lizzie; I do not have an eating disorder.”
However, Lizzie says she worked tirelessly through middle school to be able to look at herself in the mirror and be okay with who she was. With the love of her parents and her two younger siblings, she started to build her confidence up. It is at the point where she had been happiest about herself, it seemed, when her world came crashing down around her.
At 17, while procrastinating on homework at home, she stumbled upon an eight second YouTube video of her calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” There were already millions of views and thousands of comments.
Some of the comments said things like “just go get a gun, put it to your head and take yourself out of the world. It will be a much better place,” and “put a bag over your head, because when people see your face they’re going to go blind.”
All at once, Lizzie’s confidence shattered. Lizzie cried on the floor for hours and even began to question if the YouTube commenters were right.
But even after everything Lizzie didn’t want to retaliate — she thought that it was a waste of time. Instead, she resolved to prove them wrong. So Lizzie went to college, became a motivational speaker and wrote a book.
I find Lizzie Velasquez a truly inspirational figure. She had been born with neonatal progeroid syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that gave her an aged appearance and prevented her from gaining weight, and was scorned at daily. And as if all of those struggles weren’t enough for Lizzie to face, she also became the victim of cruel YouTube commenters who branded her the ‘ugliest woman in the world’ when she was just 17. But instead of letting those moments define her, Lizzie pushed through her struggles and has become an activist against online bullies.
A quote from Lizzie that touches me is “I am grateful for the days that I still get those awful comments, and it still happens regularly. It reminds me that I still have a job to do. It reminds me that I still have a purpose. A purpose to show people that things are going to be hard. I will be the first to tell you. But the light on the other side of that is indescribable.” Lizzie faced all challenges set before her with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step. This, I feel, is what we should all learn from her.
Secondary 2 Loyalty