Originally appeared here at CHILD Mags
A new documentary by Lizzie Velasquez, dubbed the ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’, shows there is light beyond the cyber-bullying dark.
Lizzie Velasquez knows why she was put on this earth. When she started school at age five, she had no idea she looked different to the other kids. She was deeply confused when they rejected her and were scared of her. After all, Lizzie’s parents had given her a normal childhood, despite her being born with a rare disease that prevents her from putting on weight. She has never weighed more than 29kg.
At age 17, Lizzie came across a video of herself on YouTube titled ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’. It had over four million views and countless cruel comments about her appearance. “It was devastating. I’d worked really hard to build up some form of self-confidence and within 2.5 seconds of finding that video it was just all gone,” she says. After her tears came her anger. “I went through the process of thinking ‘Do I type back to all these comments and tell them ‘You don’t know my story’ or ‘How dare you say that?’’. Luckily I knew that would be fighting a never-ending battle. I had to find a way to somehow pick myself off the ground and create my own definition of who I was as a person.”
Her new documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story shares Lizzie’s journey from cyber bullying victim to anti-bullying activist. One of the most successful doco crowdfunding projects of all time on Kickstarter, it launched in the US last year and has taken out top honours at every film festival it has played at.
Re-creating her own definition of herself took many years and was helped along by family and friends. “I had to accept myself as a person before I could help anyone else,” she says. Now 26, she says she focused on her goals at the time – finishing high school and starting college, and becoming a motivational speaker and author a few years down the road.
There would be times where the negativity would really get to her, but now she allows herself to experience the difficult emotions and have a cry if she needs to. “At the end of the day, I have to remind myself why I’m put on this earth and what my purpose is.” And why was Lizzie put on this earth? “To remind everyone that you are brave enough and strong enough to get through any obstacle in your life. Whether you believe it right now or not, I promise you have the strength to do it.”
OVERCOMING CYBER BULLYING
When we go online, we have to know that the good comes with the bad, says Lizzie. “Be aware that everyone always has a different opinion. You have to remember what you believe and what truly matters to you.” It’s important that we treat people online how we would in person.
“Treat others how you want to be treated. Sometimes words can hurt more than actions. Saying something across the screen can hurt more than pushing them or punching them. Keep that in mind and know there is another person on the other end of the screen. You don’t know what’s going on the other side for that person.”
A 2013 Australian government study found one in four kids was bullied online or offline. Over half of bullied kids do not tell their parents.
“I hope people see there’s light on the other side of bullying,” said Lizzie. “Things will definitely get better.”
When asked what she thinks makes someone beautiful, she said, “It sounds corny, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s who you are as a person, the things you do in life and the way you treat other people.”
First appeared at Child Mags