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Lizzie Velasquez Shows The Power Of Inner Beauty [Interview]

Photo: (Getty)

Photo: (Getty)

Lizzie Velasquez was born with a condition that keeps her body from depositing fat and building muscle. When she was in high school someone posted a video on YouTube about her called "World's Ugliest Woman,” but instead of letting this unbelievable level of bullying define her, she made her life into an inspirational success story.

Lizzie has become a professional motivational speaker, and a recent speech the 24-year-old gave at TEDX in Austin has gone super viral. Lizzie shows what beauty really means, so after watching her amaze speech, MTV Act had to talk with her about how to handle bullies, the meaning of body acceptance, and how to turn negativity into positivity.

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ACT: You went through some horrific bullying and yet you’ve turned the tables on the bullies. Can you tell us how you were able to do this?

LIZZIE: Well, it definitely wasn’t something that happened overnight. It wasn’t like turning on a light switch and I automatically loved myself. It was a process I’m pretty sure is going to be happening the rest of my life. I was going through a lot and I was really hating myself, but at the same time I had food, I had shelter, I had amazing friends and family, a good school, a good church. All of that was really going well for me. I realized my syndrome was never going away, so I could spend the rest of my life hating myself and having a giant pity party every day, or I could open my eyes and turn this around and help others in one way or another.

ACT: A lot of people struggle with low self-esteem and body acceptance. What do you think as individuals and as a society we can do to stop putting so much emphasis on certain looks?

: I think the stereotype of “this is beautiful, this is not” is something we need to decide for ourselves. I created my own definition for what I think beauty is, and once I did that and once I let go of feeling like I needed to be a “gorgeous” supermodel, everything else kind of slowly started falling into place. I think if each of us takes things into our own hands and we don’t compare ourselves to others as much, it can make a difference in people’s self-confidence.

LizzieV1-insertPhoto: (Lizzie Velasquez)

ACT: Can you share any inspirational stories of people you’ve touched through your motivational speaking?

LIZZIE: Hmm, there have been so many. I’m going on my eighth year of motivational speaking and I’ve met so many people and heard so many different stories. People around the world have emailed me.

One thing that stands out to me was when I spoke at an elementary school. While I was speaking, I noticed one specific girl who seemed really emotional throughout the whole thing. After it was over her teacher asked if I could take a picture with the class and I did. I was talking to them as a group and this quiet, quiet girl spoke up in front of them and said she didn’t like it when they teased her about her ears. And the entire class rallied around her and said they were going to stick up for her and not make fun of her. To see the look of relief on her face . . . it was something I’ll never forget.

A lot of the emails I get are from people who were ready to commit suicide because they weren’t happy with how things were going. They weren’t happy with themselves and their situation. Somehow they found my story and watched my videos and decided there was a reason for them to live and a reason for them to be here. They email me and thank me and let me know they’re going to continue on and change their lives.

LizzieV2-InsertPhoto: (Lizzie Velasquez)

ACT: Many people are inspired by your story and your motivational talks. What inspires you?

LIZZIE: Every day people inspire me. I don’t think a lot of people realize you don’t have to be a superhero or celebrity to be somebody who can make a difference. Whenever people tell me their stories and how they were having a hard time but have now turned things around, that’s what I look up to. That’s what keeps me going.

ACT: You talk about using the negativity in your life to actually make your life better. What advice do you have for how people can do that?

LIZZIE: My best advice is a little trick that I developed. It’s kind of a mind trick you have to continue to do with yourself. If you think of something negative or you’re having a bad day or just angry at the world, stop and remind yourself of something positive. “Okay, this sucks, this is something bad that’s happening, but here’s something good that’s happening.” I got into the routine of doing that a lot and it made a huge difference.

LizzieAndFriends-InsertPhoto: (Lizzie Valesquez)

ACT: You talk about how your family is a great support system for you. Where can people go to if they don’t have a family’s support when they’re feeling low or getting bullied?

LIZZIE: I get asked that question a lot. I’m very thankful and very blessed to have the family I do have, because from day one they have been absolutely nothing but supportive. But I know that some people might not be in that situation and they might not have the family that they would like to turn to. I would say talk to or reach out to at least one person, whether it’s a friend, an acquaintance, a teacher, as long as you reach out to one person for help instead of trying to throw it under a rug.

lizziePhoto: (Instagram/MTVAct)

ACT: What’s one thing you know that you wish you knew when you were 16?

: Ohhh, man, so many things! I think the biggest thing I wish I knew when I was 16 was that the rest of life was not going to be like high school. I’m not going to have to deal with the drama and all the mess of high school. What you are at 16 isn’t going to define you for the rest of your life. If you’re not in the popular crowd in high school, it’s okay. It’s so cliché to say, because it feels like everyone says it all the time, but “it gets better.” It really, really does get better.