26-Year-old Lizzie Velásquez was born with Albinism. There are only three people in the world with Albinism. And she is one of them. The extremely rare genetic disease gives her an aged appearance and also makes it hard for her to gain weight — meaning that the 5’2″, Austin, Texas, resident is just 63lbs.
Growing up she was constantly bullied because of her appearance. And as if those struggles weren’t enough for Lizzie to face, she also became the victim of some cruel cyber bully who named her the ‘ugliest woman in the world’ in a Youtube video he posted when she was just 17. But instead of letting that moment define her, Lizzie took a vicious thing and turned it into a positive.
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 her parents told her.
Doctors told her parents that they may have to care for her the rest of her life
“They loved me in the face of so many unknowns,” Lizzie says.
But despite her parents love, Lizzie admits that 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.”
However, 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. Slowly, she was finally starting to get her confidence back.
But when she was 17 years old, she got the shock of her life when 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 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 where she shared a moving message about online bullying. Her video went viral and now has more than 9 million views.
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.
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.