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Motivational speaker and anti-bullying advocate Lizzie Velásquez talks about dealing with bullying and how she pulled through her darkest time to inspire others.
Growing up with a rare disease, Velazquez, now 32, says that she lived in two different worlds. At home, her family treated her just like everyone else. She says that her parents were a source of support, and raised her to be optimistic and confident. That got harder when she started school.
As Velásquez transitioned into high school, she started to gain more understanding about her situation. This new level of self-acceptance inspired Velásquez to make new friends, join the cheerleading squad, and write for the school newspaper. She had started to feel gratitude for what she had accomplished, but the Youtube video threatened her shaky foundation when she found a video calling her "The World’s Ugliest Woman”.
Despite her feelings of defeat, that moment of bullying activated Velásquez. In 2013, she gave a TEDxAustinWomen Talk about her experience, reaching millions with her uplifting messages about beauty and happiness. She has written two children’s books, given interviews on national talk shows like The View, and the documentary film A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velásquez Story premiered at SXSW in 2015.
“My mission is always just to remind people that no matter how different you are, you are meant to be in this world, and being different is unique. Your purpose in life is out there waiting for you," says the motivational speaker.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Velásquez takes pride in being Mexican-American. As she travels around the country, speaking to young people about confidence and self-love, she is grounded by the support of her family and the deep connection to her culture. “It’s shaped who I am and I think that comes out with my values and the things that have really been a part of my foundation,” says Velásquez.