Lizzie Velasquez has experienced the relentless and unremitting torment of being mocked by bullies from all over the world her entire life.
When she was 17 years old, Ms. Velasquez came across a video of herself on YouTube, which branded her as the “world’s ugliest woman”. Devastated, the teenager spent the next few days crying in her room, thinking her life was over.
Now 26, the inspirational woman has hit back hard at the internet trolls with an anti-bullying documentary about her life, in which she talks about her battle with a rare syndrome, which prevents her from gaining weight. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Ms. Velasquez, born with a rare condition which prevents her from gaining weight, was tormented by bullies at school but was shocked to discover thousands of cruel comments on a YouTube video of her at the age of 17.
The documentary, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story premieres today at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, today.
The 78-minute documentary tracks Ms. Velasquez’ inspirational path from being a cyber-bullying victim to becoming an anti-bullying activist.
Providing details of Ms. Velasquez’ emotional and physical journey through the years, the film follows her progress as she tries to lobby the U.S. government for the first federal anti-bullying bill.
Ms. Velasquez was born with Marfan syndrome and lipodystrophy, which causes problems with the way fat is distributed in the body.
Standing at 5 ft 2 ins tall, Lizzie weighs only 58 lbs.
2. Speaking ahead of her documentary’s showing today, Lizzie said: ‘I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you’.
All we had known all my life was that I had a syndrome which meant that I couldn’t gain weight.
At the time, I thought everyone looked like me. I didn’t recognize or tell that they didn’t look like me.
Ms. Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school because she looked different. Then as a teenager, she was horrified to come across a YouTube video branding her “The World’s Ugliest Woman”.
The clip, seen four million times to date, is accompanied by a torrent of cruel comments about her appearance, as well as suggestions that she should have been killed at birth.
3. The inspiring 26-year-old fought back by becoming a motivational speaker and anti-bullying activist.
Ms. Velasquez said:
It was afternoon. I decided to go look for music on YouTube — and that’s when I found it.
I don’t even know why I clicked on it but I did and that’s when I lost it.
Calling me a monster or asking why my parents didn’t abort me… how in the world can I forgive the people who told me to kill myself?
Fighting back, Ms. Velasquez gave a TED Talk in 2013, which she says “changed everything”. She said:
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.
4. Lizzie Velasquez, pictured with documentary director Sara Hirsh Bordo arrive, at the premiere of A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story today.
Now, Ms. Velasquez has her own YouTube channel, which has more than 300,000 subscribers.
Speaking in a recent video ahead of her documentary’s premiering today, she said:
I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you.
I finally was able to sleep and I’m feeling rested and ready to go.
Director Sara Hirsh Bordo added:
Bullying is a subject that historically yields heartbreaking stories of hopelessness and in many times, loss.
Rarely is there a story of survival and inspiration that continues to crossover ages, genders, and ethnicities… enter the brave story of Lizzie Velasquez.
5. A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story — trailer.
The two met when Ms. Bordo asked Ms. Velasquez to give the TED Talk, which went on to attract more than 10 million viewers. The director added:
She was a local hero whose time, we found out shortly after, had arrived.
We live in a culture of tremendous meanness. And few people have experienced it more than Lizzie.
Lizzie chose to not give up, but to forgive and to thrive; as an author, as a speaker, and now as an activist.
What I wanted to show is that this is Lizzie’s film, but it is everyone’s story.
6. Lizzie Velasquez: How To See My Movie.
Sources: Lizzie Velasquez / YouTube.
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