Get To Know 'A Brave Heart's Lizzie Valasquez
Lizzie Velasquez was 17 when she stumbled upon an online video declaring her "The World's Ugliest Woman." Four million users had watched the clip, many of whom left hateful, anonymous comments telling Velasquez that she should kill herself. After seeing the video, Velasquez became an anti-bullying activist. She created a popular YouTube channel, where she shared her story, and was eventually invited to give a TED Talk in her hometown of Austin, Texas, at the TedxAustinWomen event. After Velasquez's talk went viral, she gained serious fame — her YouTube channel has over 456,000 subscribers and over 36 million views. The talk also led to her introduction to Sara Hirsh Bordo, a filmmaker, who teamed up with Velasquez to make the new documentary, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story. So, for any of you out there still wondering, "Who is Lizzie Velasquez?" You're about to find out.
"When I saw it my whole world just felt like it crashed at that moment," Velasquez, 26, told People of the video that changed her life. Now, almost 10 years after watching the clip, Velasquez sees the video as the catalyst that made her the activist she is today. "That video changed everything and it has given me the platform that I have now to be the voice for anyone who's ever been bullied — and not just myself," she said.
Velasquez suffers from Marfan Syndrome and Lipodystrophy, conditions that prevent her from gaining weight — she has never weighed upwards of 65 pounds — and is also blind in one eye. Her inability to gain weight causes her to appear emaciated, and has no doubt contributed to the bullying she has suffered since she started school.
"I experienced bullying as early as the first day of kindergarten and there were times where I wish I could escape out of my body," Velasquez told People.
Velasquez didn't become an anti-bullying activist overnight. As she told ABC News, "It was a long process of being really sad, then being really angry, then saying, 'I need to take this into my own hands. How can I turn it around? It was scary. But I wanted to have control over what I showed people who I was."
A Brave Heart opens in theaters on Friday, Sept. 25, but here are a few things to know about Lizzie Velasquez before you go to the movies.
She Loves Her Family
Velasquez has always credited her parents, Lupe and Rita Velasquez, for their unflinching support. Speaking with ABC News about when Lizzie was born and diagnosed with a syndrome, Lupe said, "It didn't matter, you know, what we were going to go through, she was our baby. And she was our child. I was just happy and excited. And I just couldn't wait to share her with the world."
She's Obsessed With Pretty Little Liars
Celebrities, they're just like us! On the day of this summer's epic Pretty Little Liars finale, Velasquez took to Instagram to express her love of the show, writing, "How am I supposed to focus on anything else besides @ABCpll today?!"
She Has Famous Fans
A few weeks ago, Kylie Jenner posted a heartfelt message to Velasquez in support of her anti-bullying hashtag #IAmMoreThan. "Lizzie, you are so strong and I admire you so so much. Lizzie has taken that negative energy and has turned it around by traveling around the world doing motivational speeches," Jenner wrote.
She's Not Afraid To Be Brave
"If I'm being honest, I have no clue what this next chapter is going to look like and yes, that's a little scary. Embrace whatever season you're in right now. Put on your best superhero cape and let's get ready to be the bravest we've ever been!! Who's with me?!" Velasquez wrote on Instagram a few weeks ago.
Whatever Velasquez does next, I know I'll be watching.
Images: Lizzie Velasquez/Instagram (3); Kylie Jenner/Instagram