Imagine finding a YouTube video calling you out as the ugliest woman in the world. Lizzie Velasquez did when she was just 17. Velasquez, now 25, was born with a syndrome so rare that it doesn’t have a name. The condition prevents her from gaining weight no matter how much she eats. (Only two other people in the world share the disease.) By the time Velasquez discovered the 8-second video, there were already 4 million views and a flood of nasty comments and criticism. Her parents allowed her time to grieve and then encouraged her to retaliate by drawing power from that negativity.
Since then Velasquez graduated from college, authored three books and is an impassioned motivational and anti-bullying speaker. Velasquez gained celebrity status after she gave a 2013 TEDxAustinWomen talk titled ‘How Do You Define Yourself,’ which is one of the highest viewed TedTalk videos of all time. Her message and impact will continue to multiply with the release of High Road, an anti-bullying documentary that explores her physical and emotional journey and releases this spring. Ultimately, Velasquez wants to use the documentary as a call for people to unite and make the online world a more positive place as well as show people that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to bullying.