Lizzie Velasquez was described as the ugliest woman in the world but she did not let that to deter her from living her best life. When Velasquez was 17 years old, she did an interview for a local tv station. And when the video clip was posted on YouTube, it was labeled “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” Once she discovered the clip, it had already garnered 4 million views and had an overwhelming amount of cruel commentary. But instead of shrinking back, she used the painful memory to inspire herself and encourage others.
Born in 1989, Velasquez came into this world 4 weeks premature. She was diagnosed with an extremely rare condition that made it impossible for her to develop muscle or body fat. In fact, the condition itself is so rare that it doesn’t even have a name and it’s believed to only affect 2 other people in the world. Despite the impossible diagnosis, Velasquez has charted a bold path for herself and never let the things that make her different define who she is. If you’d like to learn more about this inspiring figure, read some of her best quotes below.
Doctors Didn’t Think Lizzie Velasquez Had a Chance
“When I was born, the doctors said we just want to warn you, expect your daughter to never be able to talk, walk crawl, think, or anything by herself,” Velasquez said in a TED talk early last year.
Doctors were shocked that she was born alive, and could not imagine her ever being able to walk or talk. But despite all odds, and being incredibly small, Velasquez’s brain, internal organs, and bones developed normally.
Her Condition Is a ‘Mystery’
Velasquez describes her condition as “one big mystery.” At the young age of 4 years old, she went blind in her right eye, and to this day, doctors still don’t understand. That eye clouded over and changed color, so she now has one brown eye and one blue eye.
“God made me the way I am for a reason and I would never change that,” Velasquez has stated. “I lead a normal life as much as possible and deal with the bumps in the road as they come along with my head held high and a smile on my face!”
‘You Being You Is Enough’
Lizzie also has facial features that are commonly associated with progeria, including a small mouth, pointed nose, and aged skin – although her disorder differs from progeria in that doctors now don’t believe it will be terminal.
“You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards, you don’t have to look like anyone else, you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else,” Velasquez advises. “You being you is enough, and you putting your positivity and good vibes out into the world, once you get to that point absolutely everything will fall into place.”
Life Didn’t Just Throw Curve Balls Velasquez’s Way
While doctors didn’t understand her condition, Velasquez and her family became very proficient at living with it. Now today, she is an author, motivational speaker, and inspiration to victims of bullying everywhere on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. So has even started her own YouTube channel, with over 350,000 subscribers, who all consider themselves her friends and allies.
“Everyone knows life throws you curve balls, in my case, it’s like life throws me giant boulders,” Velasquez said of living with the condition.
She Won’t Let Others Define Her
“Am I going to let the people who called me a monster define me? Am I going to let the people who said ‘Kill it with fire’ define me?” she said. “No. I’m going to let my goals and my success and my accomplishments be the things that define me. Not my outer appearance.”
“People have asked me if I had a miracle or a chance to change the way I look, I honestly know I would never do that,” she also has said about her appearance.
A Focus on Bullying
Velasquez has fought tirelessly against bullying after much of your younger years were defined by it. Today, she’s turned her focus to cyberbullying. The 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicates that, nationwide, about 16% of students in grades 9–12 experienced cyberbullying. It’s a huge issue that Velasquez refuses to back down from addressing.
“People think cyberbullying will never end, so why try to fix it?” she said of the issue. “Which I completely understand. I will be the first to tell you that it’s not going to end. But if you start making the change and start making the steps, over time change will happen.”
Bullying Today and Those With Special Healthcare Needs
“My biggest piece of advice when it comes to bullying is to have an open communication about it,” Velasquez has said. She also notes how bullying is much more intense in our interconnected world. “Bullying in 2015 has a whole new look. It doesn’t ever end. It’s 24/7,” she said of bullying in the digital age.
That’s totally the case and it’s made even more intense for those with special healthcare needs. While bullying and cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality for many young people, children with special healthcare needs are at greater risk of being targeted by their peers, NCES reports.
“Having friends who are respected by peers can prevent and protect against bullying. Ninety-five percent of 6- to 21-year-old students with disabilities were served in public schools in 2017.”
How to End Bullying
While bullying in schools will never fully go away, Velasquez has stated that there are steps that educational institutions can take to help make it less of a menace. In her published works and talks, she’s explained some ways that school employees can open up communication and set the stage for a victim of bullying to come forward and report it.
“Bullying needs to have more attention, and there needs to be more open communication in schools to make kids feel comfortable enough to speak up,” she said.
Learning From Her Lived Experience
“Being a 13-year-old girl who is constantly picked on is unbearable,” Velasquez said of being a teen.
Because of her lived experience as a victim of bullying, she knows the toll it can take on a young person’s confidence and mental health. She described her experience as a teenager as “unbearable.” That’s completely unacceptable in today’s society. Every child deserves a safe space to grow and learn when they attend school.
An Intimate Understanding of Bullying
“I experienced bullying as early as the first day of kindergarten and there were times when I wish could escape out of my body,” she admitted.
The bullying started for Velasquez when she was very young, just a kindergartener. She had lived with it ever since then from inside school to just existing in public. It’s taken a lifetime to get to a better place and we’re so glad that Velasquez has turned that pain and trauma into something beautiful and motivational.
She Did Not Know She Was Different
“Honestly, I had no idea I was different from other kids until I started kindergarten,” she shared. “To my family, I was just Lizzie.”
Prior to attending kindergarten, Velasquez did not see herself as an “other” or different. It was her experience in a classroom for the first time and the subsequent bullying that made her realize that she was special when compared to the other kids. It’s a good reminder that no matter how hard parents foster a welcoming and loving environment for their children, they will eventually be thrust into growing up and being judged by others.
Growing Into Adulthood with a ‘Mystery’ Condition
Velasquez has been outspoken when it comes to sharing her own unique journey of growing into adulthood. As a child, she wished her syndrome away. She felt that there was some sort of blame that was due and instead of placing that blame on someone else, she turned it on herself. It’s important for other folks with special healthcare needs to hear this. Velasquez is normalizing these feelings and allowing others to know that they’re not alone as they process them.
“As I got older, I knew my syndrome wasn’t going away,” Velasquez said. “It was a hard pill to swallow. I wanted to look like everyone else and blend in, and I couldn’t find a way to make that happen. I couldn’t blame the doctors or my parents, so I blamed myself.”
Despite Accepting Things, She Still Struggles with Insecurities
Velasquez, who is a motivational speaker by trade, still struggles with how she is perceived by others. Despite coming to terms with her condition, she still feels outside pressure to always be positive when no one, not even the most put-together person in the world, feels 100% at all times.
“I feel like I’ve built up this persona of always being positive and always being happy, and I worried if my audience sees me not in that light, will they think less of me? Will they discredit me? Will I just be nothing?” she asked.
It’s important to take these words to heart as no one is a happy camper at all times. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be emotional about it.
Lizzie Velasquez On Determination
“I am very determined but I also have a tendency to be very stubborn,” she shared. “If I’m ever told I can’t do something, I put my mind to or that I won’t be able to accomplish, I automatically think of it as a dare that I won’t do it and it makes me that much more determined to get it accomplished.”
It’s with this sort of mindset that Velasquez has been able to make such a big impact over the last few years. She’s fiercely determined to the point of being “stubborn.” We would all be wise to think of obstacles in life “as a dare” to overcome.
On the Importance of Support
“I credit a lot of learning to love myself to my faith, my family, and my friends,” she revealed. “Everyone needs someone you can look to for constant support, who you never have to impress, to share your happy and sad days.”
She’s absolutely right. No matter if you were bullied or not, self-acceptance can be elusive for many of us. Velasquez is reminding us that well need folks who have our backs. Without support, you can feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill. It takes people who care for you on your best and worst days to see you through.
On What Keeps Her Going
“Young girls and boys from all around the world let me know their personal story, and I can feel their smile through their words. To be able to look at those comments and just get encouragement from them and know that I am living the life that I’m supposed to is what keeps me going every day.”
Taking on bullying and motivating people to be their best selves is no easy task but Velasquez credits her fans and their personal stories as driving factors.
She Wants You to Make a List
“One thing I did was to create a Love Yourself List. I wrote down everything I like about myself and put it on my bathroom mirror. Then I read it until I believed it. Any time I compared myself to others and felt negative about myself, I’d go back to that list.”
What a great piece of advice! We would all be wise to make our own “Love Yourself Lists.” It’s a great exercise that will help you see yourself in a more positive way. By just taking a few minutes at your mirror, you can affirm the things that make you truly special and that you would never want to change. Celebrate all the great stuff that makes you who you are!
Life Comes At You Fast
For Velasquez, she did not always know that she wanted to be a motivational speaker and figure. In fact, she had much different plans for her life than what eventually transpired. She explained that she planned on working with computers but that she caught the speaking bug instead.
“My original plan was to graduate high school and major in computer engineering at college,” she explained. “That went out the window, and I said, ‘I have to do something with speaking.'”
Aren’t you glad that she did? She’s helped thousands of people become more accepting and understanding of others as well as themselves.
She Can’t Gain Weight
Due to her condition, it’s very hard for Lizzie Velasquez to gain weight, no matter what she eats. In fact, she has to eat “every 15-20 minutes” to keep her “energy up.”
“I could eat absolutely whatever I want, whenever I want and I won’t really gain any weight,” she has explained. “I’m going to be 25 in March, and I’ve never weighed over about 64 pounds in my entire life.”
She Knows That Her Size Does Not Define Her
Despite never weighing over 75 pounds, Velasquez has spoken about how your body’s size is not a defining characteristic. It’s just another part of you and you can’t let that define who you are or keep you from achieving your goals.
“No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day, we are all human.”
She’s right our bodies are not our spirit or soul. They make us human but they do not dictate what kind of lives that we can pursue.
She Blames the Media for Most of the Pressure
“Having to look a certain way, or be a certain weight, comes from magazines, movies, the media,” she said.
This is a smart point to keep in mind. Trying to compare our bodies or appearance to that of models is just not healthy. Some people have won the genetic lottery and others have not. It’s best to accept yourself as you are instead of holding yourself to unattainable beauty standards. Velasquez is such an inspiring spokesperson when it comes to accepting yourself as you are.
She Wants You to Be Your Own Influencer
For Velasquez, it’s important not to turn to social media influencers for life advice. Don’t look to models or actors or others in the media for guidance. You’ve got to forge your own path.
She put it simply when she said, “You are the biggest influencer in your own life.”
Truer words have never been spoken! We all must take charge and not let others keep us from accomplishing the goals we set.
She’s Better Off the Way She Is
When it comes to comparing herself to others, she’s come to peace with the fact that she’s got a one-of-a-kind look. “I feel I’m really glad I don’t look like the celebrities out there who are beautiful because there are a lot of stereotypes attached to that,” she said.
That’s a great outlook. Be happy you’re you is essentially her advice. We’ll take it. Will you?
Her Faith Is Very Important to Her
“God loves us faithfully,” she wrote in her book, Dare to Be Kind. “He loves me and he loves you just as we are, today, right now, right here, no matter where we are or what’s going on in our lives. God listens to our words and hears the quiet whispers in our hearts. Each of us is given the opportunity to have a unique relationship with God.”
If you’re so inclined, you might want to take Velasquez’s advice to explore your faith and become strong in it. Obviously, that’s not for everyone but it seems to be working out well for Velasquez who talkes about it often.
Just Be You
We’ll leave you with a Lizzie Velasquez quote about being your most authentic self and staying true to yourself. It’s also from her book, Dare to Be Kind:
“It is fine to be who you are. It is a good thing not to be just like everybody else. What makes you unique is what makes you beautiful, because it’s what makes you you. And the world needs you, exactly as you are. That’s the truth, plain and simple.”
Now you know all about Lizzie Velasquez and her inspiring story. She is a beacon of hope and positive energy that shines so brightly that she encourages others to live life in a more fulfilling fashion. We hope her story has stirred something inside you and that you’ll take her motivational words to heart.
Andrew is an Assistant Editor for Mamas Uncut with over ten years of experience as a writer in the creative, marketing, and blogging spaces. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a passion for telling stories in a variety of mediums. Obsessively making lists, reporting celebrity news, and diving into emerging pop cultural topics are a few of his interests.
- 1 Doctors Didn’t Think Lizzie Velasquez Had a Chance
- 2 Her Condition Is a ‘Mystery’
- 3 ‘You Being You Is Enough’
- 4 Life Didn’t Just Throw Curve Balls Velasquez’s Way
- 5 She Won’t Let Others Define Her
- 6 A Focus on Bullying
- 7 Bullying Today and Those With Special Healthcare Needs
- 8 How to End Bullying
- 9 Learning From Her Lived Experience
- 10 An Intimate Understanding of Bullying
- 11 She Did Not Know She Was Different
- 12 Growing Into Adulthood with a ‘Mystery’ Condition
- 13 Despite Accepting Things, She Still Struggles with Insecurities
- 14 Lizzie Velasquez On Determination
- 15 On the Importance of Support
- 16 On What Keeps Her Going
- 17 She Wants You to Make a List
- 18 Life Comes At You Fast
- 19 She Can’t Gain Weight
- 20 She Knows That Her Size Does Not Define Her
- 21 She Blames the Media for Most of the Pressure
- 22 She Wants You to Be Your Own Influencer
- 23 She’s Better Off the Way She Is
- 24 Her Faith Is Very Important to Her
- 25 Just Be You
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