Written By Nitya Mohan (Grade 8)
“Hey, skinny bones!” “Pork Chop Legs!” “Grandma!” As five-year-old Lizzie walked down her new classroom, she heard many such names being thrown at her. She was confused. Who were they and why were they shouting at her? She noticed the staring eyes of many children, whispering to each other and following her across the room. Suddenly, an awful thought came to her mind. Are they talking about me? Lizzie looked around as she saw several astonished eyes looking at her as if she was some specimen. Suddenly, for the first time in her life, Lizzie realised that she was different than others. She at once wanted to run away.
Elizabeth Ann Velasquez or Lizzie Velasquez was born on March 13, 1989, in Austin, Texas. She was born with an extremely rare disorder called Marfan lipodystrophy syndrome (MFLS) which prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight. She was also blind in one eye and her features appeared big in her face because of her ailment.
Lizzie was very excited to go to school but soon found out how plainly cruel it was and never wanted to go back. At home among family and relatives she never felt different or unusual. But school was completely different because none had seen a girl quite like her. They wouldn’t play with her and would tease her. Every day at home she would cry her heart out. Her family advised her to ignore such derogatory remarks and walk with her head held high but isn’t it easier said than done?
Over the years, Lizzie coped up with her initial sadness by heeding her parent’s advice and ignoring these remarks and soon could see the brighter side of school. She made great friends, girls and boys who didn’t let her looks deceive them and looked beyond them. With their support, she got through her school years, studied hard, passed her exams with flying colours, and even became a cheerleader in high school. Her family and friends were her rock and always stood by her in her most difficult times.
“But as time passed by and Lizzie grew older, she began facing a new source of torment, the Internet. One of her worst days ever was when she was 17 years old, she found a video of herself on the Internet labelled as “World’s Ugliest Woman”. Tears of agony poured down her cheeks, a fire of anger surging inside her. How can people be so unfeeling? They hardly knew her or her personality like how kind and cheerful she was. They simply judged her because of her looks.
That day she understood that growing up did not mean an end to bullying. Some people even gave her terrible advice such as ending her life.
Lizzie had lots of troubles in her life, experiencing other’s bad attitudes and close mindedness. She realized one day that it was her decision- to be unhappy or happy. She could either live in the shadows, scared or she could use this anger and show the world that people are so much more than just their physique.
In 2008, she created her YouTube channel, where she began posting videos promoting the anti-bullying message. Gradually her videos became popular, and she received motivating comments from her audience who shared their own stories of being bullied with her. On realizing the power of social media, she held to positively change the lives of so many others, who were tormented just like he, she decided to become a voice for all as a motivational speaker. In January 2014, she delivered a TEDxAustinWomen Talk “How Do YOU Define Yourself” which earned her global fame.
Through lots of hard work, she fulfilled her dreams and was triumphant. Now she is an inspiration to the world. It is rightly said that one should not judge a book by its cover, and Lizzie is the prime example of it. She has written several books such as ‘Lizzie Beautiful: The Lizzie Velásquez Story’, ‘Be Beautiful, Be You’ , and ‘Choosing Happiness’ and her latest book, ‘Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World’. These books are about her childhood struggles and remind us how important it is to be happy and brave when it’s all too easy to give up. As of today, she is a successful motivational speaker, author, social media personality, and a dedicated anti-bullying activist. She is a beacon of hope for all who have been a victim of bullying and strives to make this world a better place, opening one mind at a time.
Featured Image Courtesy – Modern Wellness Guide