"What defines you?" That's what Lizzie Velasquez is asking the crowds of people who come hear her motivational speeches.
She once made headlines as the world’s “ugliest” woman, but she’s not letting anything hold her back. The 24-year-old Texan, who suffers from a very rare syndrome, is using her devotion to religion to help diminish the hate that comes her way by overriding it with an inspirational message of love and acceptance.
Velasquez has a rare condition that prevents her from gaining any weight. She is one of three people on Earth who were born with the condition. In her entire life, she has never weighed more than 64 pounds, and she was born without sight in her right eye.
When she was still in high school she found a video of herself on YouTube that was labeled “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” It was only 8 seconds long and was just a picture of her face. The comments that went along with the millions of views were horrid, and though her parents tried to get the video off the site, the unidentified user wouldn’t take it down since it had more tha 4 million hits. She wanted to fight back at some of the commenters, like one specifically who told her to put a gun to her head and kill herself, but Velasquez decided to deal with the pain in a different way.
"Am I gonna let the people who called me a monster define me? No. I'm gonna let my goals and my success and my accomplishments be the things that define me," she said in a new YouTube video that has gotten more than 100,000 views since it was posted on Dec. 20. Eight years after graduating from high school, she has written two books and graduated from college.
Now, the 24-year-old motivational speaker is moving thousands of people with her story. She shared her life story at a TED Talk in Austin, Texas. She talked about what it’s like to be different and how she wouldn’t let it define her. During her speech, she acknowledged there are plenty of trials that come with her rare syndrome, but she also pointed out some of the highlights. For one, she has great hair. Another plus, she can literally eat as much and as often as she wants without having to worry about gaining pounds.
"It's not easy, I will be the first to tell you it's not easy," Velasquez told HLN during an interview, according to Christian Post. "I may have this outer exterior of people saying, 'She can handle everything, she's dealt with this for so long,' and to be honest, I'm human and of course these things are going to hurt," she said on a more solemn note.
Velasquez was raised in the Catholic Church and has chosen to spread the word of Jesus Christ instead of suffering from anger and hopelessness. "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," said Velasquez.
Check out her moving speech below:
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