An inspiring story of an unfortunate woman having a rare condition who changed her life in surprising ways.
Lizzie Velásquez was born with neonatal progeroid syndrome, a rare genetic disease affecting her heart, bones, and eyes. It also prevents her from gaining weight. Velásquez was born on March 13, 1989 in Austin, Texas.
She said she was constantly bullied growing up because of the way she looks. She admits her Roman Catholic upbringing has helped her stay strong and positive. “It’s been my rock through everything, just having the time to be alone and pray and talk to God and know that He’s there for me,” she says.
She says her parents treated her with love throughout her upbringing.
Lizzie didn’t know she was different till she got to kindergarten.
The kids didn’t want to sit near her and pointed at her.
When she told her parents what was happening in school, they assured her she was worthy. “There is nothing wrong with you, you are just smaller than the other kids. You are beautiful and smart and can accomplish anything,” Lizzie says they told her.
Doctors told her parents they may have to care for her the rest of her life.
“They loved me in the face of so many unknowns,” Lizzie says.
Despite her parents love, Lizzie admits it was still hard to accept her condition.
“I wanted to look like everyone else and blend in, and I couldn’t find a way to make that happen,” she says. “I couldn’t blame the doctors or my parents, so I blamed myself.”
By high school, things turned around for her.
She was a writer for the school newspaper and photographer for the yearbook. She also joined the cheerleading team, wearing the uniform with pride.
When she was 17 years old, she was scrolling through YouTube looking for music videos.
Accidentally, she came across a video of her being dubbed “ugliest woman in the world.”
“I felt like someone was putting a fist through the computer screen and physically punching me. I bawled my eyes out,” she admits.
She said the video had four million views and the comments sections were filled with people mocking her further.
Rather than hide, Lizzie moved on with her life. She graduated from Texas State University, majoring in communications.
In 2013, she participated in a TEDx talk in Austin. Her video went viral.
She co-wrote a book with her mother titled Lizzie Beautiful: The Lizzie Velásquez Story. She followed it up with two more books Be Beautiful, Be You and Choosing Happiness.
A documentary of her life was released in 2015, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velásquez Story.
Still, there are still memes of her that are meant to be hurtful and shaming. Although, she is fighting back.
“No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day we are all human. I ask that you keep that in mind the next time you see a viral meme of a random stranger. At the time you might find it hilarious but the human in the photo is probably feeling the exact opposite. Spread love not hurtful words via a screen,” she pleads with people.