From ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’ to Anti-Bullying Hero – Lizzie Velasquez

11 November 2016
Reading time5 mins

How one inspirational young woman went from cyberbully victim to one of the most influential anti-bullying campaigners in the world.

“Kill it with fire!” “Do everyone a favour and kill yourself!”

Imagine if you logged on to your computer one day to find those callous statements on one of your social media pages. That’s exactly what happened to Lizzie Velasquez.

Lizzie was born with an extremely rare condition that prevented her from gaining weight and made her look different from the other kids at school. After suffering bullying through her early school years, she was beginning to be accepted as a teenager, joining the cheerleading team and making friends, when the bullying started again. And this time, she couldn’t escape from it when she got home. It was online, for everyone to see, including Lizzie from the sanctuary of her own bedroom. She found a short video of herself on YouTube, dubbed ‘The World’s Ugliest Woman’. It had had thousands of views, and had generated thousands of hateful comments from cyberbullies.

However, while this was clearly a low point in Lizzie’s life, she refused to let that determine who she was, or who she would become. She took that hatred—from complete strangers who didn’t even know her—and channelled it into feelings of power and positivity that saw Lizzie, now 26, emerge as one of the world’s leading anti-bullying activists.

A new documentary, A Brave Heart – The Lizzie Velasquez Story, follows her inspiring journey from bullying victim to anti-bullying campaigner. Part of the documentary focuses on Lizzie’s attempts to get a new bill passed in the US government that could help victims of bullying. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would ensure that schools prohibit bullying and harassment in their codes of conduct, and would have to record instances of bullying and harassment in their annual school safety reports. At the time of writing, this bill still hadn’t been passed.

“Unfortunately the bill still hasn’t gotten enough votes to be put to the floor.” Lizzie says. “I think what’s most important right now is the need for awareness of the bill. Not many people know about it and I believe what is important is the personal stories of children being bullied in school.”

In the film, we meet the mother of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl who hanged herself in her wardrobe after being bullied online. Lizzie says cyberbullying is a real problem for today’s children and something needs to be done about it to prevent more lives being affected, or even taken.

So, what advice does Lizzie have for someone who experiences cyberbullying? “Know that when it comes to the internet, with the good comes the bad,” she says. “Not everyone will have something nice to say. If you ever feel like it’s too much, take a break from social media and do something positive.”

She also says parents and carers play a big role in tackling the problem with their own children: “Keeping a healthy conversation open with your child about the good and not so good days is key.”

Lizzie has taken her anti-bullying message around the world. She also received a standing ovation for her influential TEDx Talk, which has been viewed in excess of 10.5 million times.

Lizzie has just finished writing her new book and is looking forward to sharing it with everyone in 2017.

161108 braveheart book

To find out more about the documentary A Brave Heart - The Lizzie Velasquez Story, visit imwithlizzie.com or www.facebook.com/aboutlizzie.

You can see the full documentary trailer here.

 

Worried about your child’s digital life?

Try the article on How to manage cyberbullying, and Raising a digitally healthy child.

If you are worried about your child being a victim of online bullies, see What can you do if your child is being cyberbullied

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Written by

Kerry White

Kerry is the Senior Writer for Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City. Kerry moved to Australia from England in 2013 with her husband and two daughters. She worked as a sub-editor in London for seven years before she had her girls. She now calls the Sunshine Coast her home and is making the most of its glorious weather and beaches. She enjoys baking, especially when she has a glass of wine in hand, and is a part-time Psychology, Criminology and Justice student. She also shares her home with two cats and her daughters' imaginary dogs.

Please login to comment
  • Guest - Victor DeSantiago
    Hi Kerry! This article caught my attention on FaceBook. I'm really touched by the content and its message. I believe that the cyber-bullying story of Lizzie Velásquez (and what she did about it) is one that strongly deserves to be talked about. It should be propagated, taught, learned from, and even more. I disagree with you (and/or your publication's editorial team) on one thing: - The one turning point or highlighted subject for Lizzie in this story (the video entitled "World’s Ugliest Woman") already did more than enough damage to her, and whoever else was affected by it. I believe the article's title is demeaning to Lizzie, and whoever else could feel in a position similar to hers. When I read: <<From ‘World’s Ugliest Woman’ to Anti-Bullying Hero>> it seems like you and/or Kids On The Coast could be empowering the makers of "World's Uggliest Woman" (and everyone else) to believe those kids where right! It seems like you are in fact, labeling Lizzie as "World’s Ugliest Woman." I don't think that at all, and know that's not a fact, but appearance is the truth, in the mind of whoever believes it. Now, if your title had said: "From BEING LABELED as "World’s Ugliest Woman" to..." then it would seem like you're citing someone else, repeating a story, or whatever else, except for that statement originating from you! Respectfully, Víctor DeSantiago

You may also like