Lizzie Velásquez was born with neonatal progeroid syndrome, a rare genetic disease affecting her heart, bones, and eyes. It also prevents her from gaining weight. Velásquez was born on March 13, 1989 in Austin, Texas. She said she was constantly bullied growing up because of the way she looks. She admits her Roman Catholic upbringing has helped her stay strong and positive. “It’s been my rock through everything, just having the time to be alone and pray and talk to God and know that He’s there for me,” she says.Lizzie didn’t know she was different till she got to kindergarten.
When she told her parents what was happening in school, they assured her she was worthy. “There is nothing wrong with you, you are just smaller than the other kids. You are beautiful and smart and can accomplish anything,” Lizzie says they told her.
“They loved me in the face of so many unknowns,” Lizzie says.
“I wanted to look like everyone else and blend in, and I couldn’t find a way to make that happen,” she says. “I couldn’t blame the doctors or my parents, so I blamed myself.”
She was a writer for the school newspaper and photographer for the yearbook. She also joined the cheerleading team, wearing the uniform with pride.
Accidentally, she came across a video of her being dubbed “ugliest woman in the world.”
She said the video had four million views and the comments sections were filled with people mocking her further.
In 2013, she participated in a TEDx talk in Austin. Her video went viral.
A documentary of her life was released in 2015, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velásquez Story.
“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,” she pleads with people.