When Lizzie Velasquez was born, she weighed only 2 pounds 11 ounces, her face looked very atypical, and the doctors didn’t think she’d ever be able to walk or talk or even think. Still, her parents were determined to do the best they could for their firstborn. The doctors were wrong about the walking, talking, and thinking. However, she’s one of only a handful of people in the world with an extremely rare form of Marfan syndrome. It causes her to age prematurely and prevents her for gaining any weight. Despite consuming 5,000 to 8,000 calories per day, she has virtually no body fat. The most she’s ever weighed is 64 pounds.
Until her first day of kindergarten, Lizzie didn’t realize that she looked different from other people. The other children reacted to her like she was some kind of monster. As she says, “I think of it as a big slap of reality for a five year-old.” It was just the beginning of years of being bullied and insulted.
The worst episode of bullying happened when Velasquez was 16. Someone posted a video of her on YouTube calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” It got millions of views and plenty of nasty comments, including suggestions that she do the world a favor by killing herself. Most people would have been utterly crushed, but Velasquez has tremendous force of character. She realized her life was in her hands and whether it would be good or bad was up to her. She turned all that negativity around and used it to light her own fire.
Today Velasquez is 28 and has a highly successful career as a motivational speaker. Her YouTube channel (700,000 followers) serves as a vehicle for fighting bullying. “This is my purpose. This is what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life. I like to think that I’m not only telling my story, I’m telling everyone’s story.”
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