Oh, the Internet, always ensuring that nice people feel really bad about themselves.
This time, the victim of brutal e-bullying is Lizzie Velasquez, a 23-year-old Texas State University student with an extremely rare medical condition that prohibits her body from gaining any fat. In fact, it’s so uncommon that only three people in the world are known to have it. Her mysterious illness requires her to eat every 15 minutes, keeps her weight at about 60 lbs. and has led to blindness in one of her eyes. In addition to all of this, Lizzie has had to contend with the cruelty of strangers.
After her decision to become a motivational speaker, some unfortunate people — and I use the term “people” loosely here — got wind of her story and have begun harassing her over the internet while encouraging others to do so. Although she says that she’s used to a certain level of insensitivity from people who don’t know her, Lizzie admitted on the Dr. Drew Show that it does bother her: “I’m human… of course these things are going to hurt.”
The bullying directed at Lizzie has included people dubbing her “The World’s Ugliest Woman” and spreading meme images using her photos around message boards. She has received emails telling her to commit suicide from full-grown adults, not simply bored kids. It has gotten so bad that there are literally websites entirely devoted to bashing her (don’t search for them — you’ll get really depressed about mankind).
During our teens and early twenties (and probably the rest of our lives), most of us have felt insecure appearance-wise at some point. It’s impossible to feel good about ourselves when we’re constantly being shown images of ridiculously attractive people made even more ridiculously attractive due to, if not sometimes a bit overboard. It’s unattainable. The last time a guy called me fat, I curled up like a hedgehog and cried for a week. But to have hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people on the Internet taking time out of their day to inform you that because you have a medical condition that prevents you from gaining weight, they believe you should die — that’s unimaginable.
One of the most fascinating things about this story is our culture’s obsession with continuously lowering everyone’s BMI, even those whose body fat is already dangerously low, yet people find it offensive enough to openly comment on when somebody actually has 0% body fat despite it not being her choice what-so-ever.
It’s also bizarre that a man can win $10,000 or other prizes for being deemed the “ugliest,” whereas a young woman simply wanting to inspire people is told to kill herself. If you decide to be laughed at and even benefit from people finding you unattractive, you’re apparently not grounds for open hunting as a young lady who dares to (gasp!) live her life unabashedly — posting photos, going on television, writing books — regardless of how people feel about her appearance.
So rather than let critics drive her to shy away from the limelight, Lizzie has instead turned this into an overwhelmingly positive experience. On Dr. Drew, she stated a desire to start changing how bullies think through how she reacts to people in public: “I’m starting to want to go up to these people [who are staring] and introduce myself or give them my card and say, ‘Hi, I’m Lizzie — Maybe you should stop staring and start learning’.”
In addition to her motivational speaking career, she participated in the It Gets Better Project that encourages adolescents to have hope for a future beyond bullies. Clearly, it did get better for Lizzie as she just released her second book, Be Beautiful, Be You, this month and her first one, Lizzie Beautiful has been out since 2010.
To learn more about Lizzie including her motivational speaking and books, visit her website.