Lizzie Velasquez is no stranger to bullying. The 27-year-old Texan was born with neonatal progeroid syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects her heart, eyes, and bones, and prevents her from gaining weight.
When she was 17, Lizzie stumbled across a video of herself on YouTube that called her “the ugliest woman in the world.” She was devastated.
“It made me feel awful,” she said. “I think if anyone were to put themselves in my shoes the moment I found that video, and reading all the comments, I think you’d instantly knew how I felt. It was horrible, I was upset, I was angry, and I didn’t know how I was going to pick myself back up from it.”
Lizzie was in a dark place for several years after seeing that video, but she finally decided she wasn’t going to be a victim anymore. Instead, she would be a voice for others.
Today Lizzie is a motivational speaker and activist whose message has been heard by millions. Earlier this year, a documentary about her life, entitled “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” shared her journey with the world.
“I have no idea who the person was who called me the ‘ugliest woman in the world,'” she said in an interview with Today. “I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman. I wish I did. I would send a thank you card and flowers because that video changed my life for the better.”
“Awful things happened to me, but I am still here smiling and happy. I am so grateful that what I have been through has given me the opportunity to be a voice for so many people.”
But while Lizzie has risen above her challenges, that doesn’t mean cruel words don’t still hurt. Recently she found a meme on Facebook that used a picture of her and cast her as a woman waiting for a date who would never show up.
Instead of ignoring it, Lizzie decided to speak up. Her response has since gone viral and has garnered praise from thousands of people all over the world.
“I’ve seen a ton of memes like this all over @facebook recently,” she wrote in a post on Instagram. “I’m writing this post not as someone who is a victim but as someone who is using their voice.
“Yes, it’s very late at night as I type this but I do so as a reminder that the innocent people that are being put in these memes are probably up just as late scrolling through Facebook and feeling something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
“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. Xoxo Lizzie”
People have since flooded her page with messages of support, calling her an “inspiration” and “beautiful inside and out.”
“You are a star. A sparkling, twinkling, beautiful star,” one commenter said. Another added, “Don’t let anyone get you down, you’re worth more.”
Despite the hurt cruel memes like this impose, Lizzie is not one to let it get her down for long. She is committed to standing up for others who are being put down and being an advocate for change.
When asked if she had any advice for others who are going through similar circumstances, Lizzie said, “I think my biggest piece of advice is, number one, you’re not alone in what you’re going through. There is a light on the other side of being bullied and if I was able to find it … I hope you can also find it.”
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