How Lizzie Velasquez Went From Bullying Victim To Hero In ‘A Brave Heart’ Docu


If you were called the World’s Ugliest Woman on the internet, what would you do? If millions of people saw a nasty video that some Youtube user posted online making fun of you, would you hide and never be seen in public?

That seems like the obvious choice, but not if you are Lizzie Velasquez. Every time we read her name in an article or hear her being mentioned, we just know it is about something positive and empowering. She was born with two rare conditions: Marfan and lipodystrophy which in a nutshell prevent her from ever putting on weight.

She is of course the woman who was called the aforementioned horrible title by some ignorant internet bullies who clearly have nothing better to do with their lives, unlike Lizzie.

By the way, she was only 17 when that Youtube video came out, and today, the 26 year old is the most prominent example of how to turn bullying into a cause for speaking up.

“I cried for many nights – as a teenager I thought my life was over,” Lizzie told the BBC about her reaction to first seeing the Youtube video about her and the awful comments. “I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anybody about it, I didn’t tell any of my friends, I was just so shocked that it had happened.”


If “success is the best revenge” were a dictionary term, it would have Lizzie’s face next to it. Over the past couple of years she has been traveling around the US giving motivational talks sharing her story, has even given a TEDx Talk, and is now sharing her journey in an even bigger way: in a documentary called ‘A Brave Heart‘.

The feature-length docu premiered at the 2015 South by South West festival in Austin, Texas, with the slogan “bullying stories are famous for having victims, not heroes”.

“Bullying is a subject that historically yields heartbreaking stories of hopelessness and in many times, loss. Rarely is there a story of survival and inspiration that continues to crossover ages, genders, and ethnicities,” writes director Sara Hirsh Bordo about the film.

“We live in a culture of tremendous meanness. And few people have experienced it more than Lizzie. In September 2014, the World Health Organization published that every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. How many more kids do we have to lose to being bullied and discriminated against because they look or act different?”


Lizzie went to Washington DC to lobby for The Safe Schools Improvement act, the first federal bill with potential to reach the floor for a congressional vote, in order to make bullying something that is against the law. At the end of filming, Lizzie’s efforts helped garner a record 208 co-sponsors out of 218 needed for the bill. This was more support than over 8 years of congressional efforts.

The thing about Lizzie’s story, although very unique because of her rare medical condition, is that all of us can identify with it, and that is part of what she talks about in her motivational speeches. We ALL can find excuses to hide from the world, some of those being very valid and hurtful reasons. But only we have the power to control our reactions, and there is nothing that anyone else can do to dim our light unless we allow it.

‘A Brave Heart’ was made possibly after a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign (they raised $214,000 and initially only asked for $180,000) which saw donators from 16 different countries contribute to what could be a game changer in the culture of cyber-bullying today.

“I’m not only telling my story, I’m telling everyone’s story,” Lizzie says in the trailer below.

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