You may or may not have heard of 23-year-old Lizzie Velasquez. She is a woman with an undiagnosed, extremely rare condition in which she was born with no body fat nor does she have the cells to support storing fat.
Velasquez has been featured in the news and on shows like NBC's Today Show, and is a motivational speaker. She is also somewhat of a YouTube sensation with more than 60 videos ranging from a day-in-the-life to hair tutorials to motivational messages. Collectively, her videos have gotten more than 4.5 million views. But with Internet notoriety comes Internet trolls -- or cyberbullies.
Due to her lack of body fat, Velasquez only weighs 60 pounds and while others her age have taught skin, hers hangs loose in many areas. She is also completely blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other. Velasquez writes on her website that only three other people in the world have a condition similar to hers, which she notes is like progeria but that condition is terminal and has more complications than what she experiences.
In one of Velasquez's YouTube videos titled "Courage & Determination," done in the popular notecard style, she reveals that another YouTube video labeled her the ugliest woman in the world -- it has more than 4 million hits with some in the comments suggesting she kill herself. Instead of letting this derail her, she set four goals for herself: motivational speaking, publish a book, graduate college and have a family and career of her own. Two of these goals she has already accomplished. Check it out:
Velasquez, in addition to maintaining her active YouTube account with videos, has written two books. The first is a diary her mother kept in Velasquez's younger years. More recently, Velasquez published "Be Beautiful Be You." Discussing this latter book and her condition recently with Dr. Drew on HLN, Velasquez speaks out against the bullying she has received.
"It's not easy," she said on the show. "I may have this outer exterior of people saying 'she can handle anything, she's dealt with this for so long.' To be honest, I'm human and of course these things are going to hurt, but at the end of the day, these things are just words and these people are just hiding behind their computers. And yes, they do hurt, but their judgments of me isn't who I am, and I'm not going to let those things define me. So, I have to remind myself that these people are just going to keep talking about me but it's not going to hold me back."
Dr. Drew asks Velasquez if she ever wonders about the identity of those writing hurtful things about her.
"I wonder about the people who call me the 'ugliest woman in the world,' what do these people look like? How are they so much better than me? Just because I have a syndrome, you think you're a model? ... If they were so proud of who they are, they would show their face, but they don't," she said.
As for the people who stare in public, Velasquez said she gaining the courage to go up to those who gawk and introduce herself and say "Hi, I'm Lizzie. Maybe you should stop staring and start learning."
Watch Velasquez's appearance on Dr. Drew:
One of Velasquez's most popular videos posted on YouTube is with regard to bullying as well. In it she acknowledges that "every form of bullying hurts."
"You've probably heard people who say 'be proud of yourself, be proud of who you are.' You're probably thinking, 'why am I going to be myself if I'm just going to be bullied?' I know the feeling. ... But listen to this and let it sink in: you are not alone. ... You want to know my little secret for getting through the negativity and bullying? I set the bar higher and higher for myself and I make goals and do whatever I can to reach them. ... Take action. Don't let these bullies see that they're winning."
Learn more about Velasquez on her website here.
(H/T: Daily Mail)