The Internet once dubbed her the world’s ugliest woman. But Lizzie Velasquez has spent the last nine years proving to the world that she’s the most beautiful, the most inspiring and the most courageous.
Velasquez has a very rare, unexplained medical syndrome that doesn’t allow her to gain weight. The 26-year-old weighs just 62 pounds and her skin hangs on her bones. Nine years ago, while searching YouTube for music, Velasquez stumbled upon a video called “Ugliest Woman in the World,” and, much to her dismay, the video was about her. The YouTube clip was flooded with hateful comments that called her a monster, to put it lightly.
Velasquez had endured years of bullying as a kid because of her appearance, but the cyberbullying pushed it to another level.
“I had no other preparation thinking that if I clicked on this photo that it would absolutely crush me,” Velasquez told Fox News Latino. “I was so upset and furious and every emotion that you could possibly think of. I think I also wanted to protect my parents from seeing it because I felt like I would be able to handle it even though I was so upset.”
Velasquez’s parents, Lupe and Rita Velasquez, are front and center in a new documentary that will be released in theaters Friday called “A Brave Heart.” The film follows Velasquez’s inspiring journey from the moment her world came crashing down because of cyberbullying to how she has used the negativity as fuel to inspire others through her motivational talks.
Her parents have been with her every step of the way. Her mother said that when her daughter was born, the nurse showed her a photo of Lizzie before she was allowed to hold her. “They were worried that I was going to freak out by seeing her,” Rita told ABC News.
But Lupe and his wife have been proud mother and father since the moment she was born.
“I was raised with a very large extended family and we are all very, very close and everyone is so supportive,” Velasquez told Fox News Latino. “No one ever treated me differently. They never were more gently with me. I was just Lizzie to them.”
In December 2013, Velasquez became Lizzie to a worldwide audience delivering a “TED X Talk” about how she reconciled that the cyberbullying incident caused her to make a choice: to either choose happiness or choose to feel sorry for herself. The 12-minute talk was seen by millions. Since then, Velasquez has amassed a half a million subscribers on YouTube as people watch her video blogs to follow her career as an inspirational author and motivational speaker determined to stop cyberbullying and empower those who need it the most.
“One of the most important things that my parents did when I was born was eliminate the word why,” Velasquez said. “They never said ‘why us?’ ‘Why is our first born coming with all of these complications?’ And that definitely played a key role throughout my life. To stop saying: ‘Why am I in this body?’ Or ‘Why do I look like this?’ Because I had my parents support, my extended family support to tell me why, and that was to be put on this earth to hopefully help as many people as I can.”
Velasquez hopes “A Brave Heart” will carry a message of strength, resilience and of self-love that will help a social media obsessed society use the tools of the web to inspire love not hate.
She said people should be more self-confidence and not use 10 filters when they post a photo on Instagram.
“I would tell you that you are enough just being you. You have to keeping telling yourself that every single day until you actually believe it. And you live that truth,” she said, “that you are enough just being you. You have to stop comparing yourself to other people, because you were put on this earth for a reason and that reason is waiting for you to find it.”