Wednesday 11 December 2019

The 'world's ugliest woman' Lizzie Velasquez raising funds through Kickstarter for anti-bullying documentary

Scott Delhommer

Lizzie Velasquez, who has been called “the world’s ugliest woman,” hoped to tell her story through an anti-bullying documentary about her life.

She became well known in December 2013, when her TED Talk, a short speech designed to spread ideas from a number of subjects, went viral. Her talk on bullying has over 5.7 million views on YouTube.

“I know what it is to be bullied and what is to be bullied online, and I want to be the protector of those who think it won't get better,” said Velasquez, 25, who has a rare disease that makes it impossible for her to gain weight.

Velasquez’s syndrome is so rare that only two other people in the world have it. She has never weighed more than 64 pounds and is blind in one eye.

In her TED Talk, she explains that her life changed when she saw herself in a YouTube video titled, “The world’s ugliest woman,” and there were comments like: “Do the world a favour and put a gun to your head.”

She said that video emboldened her, and she chose to make her illness into a positive.

“Instead of just taking shelter of my tears, I chose to be happy and realise this syndrome is not a problem but a blessing that allows me to improve myself and inspire other people,” said Velasquez.

She is trying to broaden the reach of her message by making a film, tentatively titled “The Lizzie Project,” which she is trying to fund through a Kickstarter campaign.

She has collected more than $123,000, about £73,000, in donations, but the goal of the campaign, which ends on 31 May, is to raise $180,000 (£107,000). If Velasquez doesn’t reach her goal, she would not get any of the money raised.

Since seeing the video and comments, she has written three self-help books, the most recent of which, “Choosing Happiness,” is to be published in August.

“Lizzie has such an inner strength and sense of humour that anyone can relate to her,” said Sara Bordo, a first-time director working with Velasquez on the film project. “We all have difficulties in life, but nothing compared to what she has been through. Her positive attitude elevates the spirit of any person in the world.”

Velasquez attributes her strength to her parents, who have shown her the same love as they did her other siblings, Marina and Chris, neither of whom suffer from the syndrome.

“They're the best parents in the entire world,” said Velasquez. “From the moment I was born they showered me with love. And they didn't just raise me. They raised my brother and sister in the exact same way. So that love, multiplied times three, is what definitely brought me to where I am today.”

Velasquez was born four weeks premature, and when doctors used a photo to show her to her mother, she began to cry.

“I started crying inconsolably, but I asked them to bring her to me nevertheless,” said Rita Velasquez. “I wanted to see her, hold her and love her.”

Her father said Velasquez knew she was different on her first day of kindergarten when other kids didn’t want to play with her. Her mother and father told her about her syndrome, and he said that ever since, Velasquez has shown a lot of maturity.

Since becoming older, Velasquez said that she would not be interested in a cure for her syndrome because it is a part of her.

“No, there is no way, I wouldn't even consider it,” Velasquez said. “If you had asked me that question when I was 13, I'd probably have said yes. I'd be all for it, I'd do the trial, whatever.

“But if you ask me that now, I've learned and I've come such a long way to be able to accept who I am and own who I am that, if I changed anything about me I wouldn't be Lizzie, I wouldn't be true to myself.”


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