The kindness of Lizzie Velasquez is triumphant against what the internet has tried to do to her identity. Not only is she fighting to define herself in the wake of those who posted video and memes declaring her the ‘world’s most ugliest woman’, Velasquez has taken the true ugliness of the internet and used it as a way to make a stand against bullying. The smart, vivacious Lizzie will be sharing her story this week with the release of a documentary about her life, the struggles growing up with a disease that affected her health (rare newly-diagnosed that prevents weight gain), and her experience dealing with the viral phenomenon of her image that she did not let herself become a victim.
Directed by Sarah Hirsch Bordo, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, follows Lizzie’s journey to empowering herself and others affected by the emotional and physical violence of bullying. With complete and utter grace, she demonstrates how being an advocate for social good can spread just as viraly with her YouTube channel, her talks, and support for the Anti-Bullying bill on Capitol Hill. The film is a call to action for the bill, which seeks to have bullying and harassment defined as violence under school’s codes of conduct. Also, it strives to encourage the school system to keep an account of how many instances of bullying there are on an annual basis.
After an L.A. screening of the film, Lizzie shared in a Q&A more about her journey to stand up for those who feel powerless and her hopes for the film.
When speaking at a national convention in Mexico City alongside Mark Zuckerberg and Hillary Clinton, Lizzie admitted that having a moment with the current presidential candidate was nerve-wracking, but gave her a boost before going up on stage that prompted her to bust a move:
Lizzie Velasquez: Meeting her and being so inspired, as soon as I met her, I think I really carried that onto the stage with even what I did. Looking back now, everything in the movie is so genuine. I really did get really excited and do that little dance, like I do all the time. I laugh at my mom now ’cause she looked so nervous, I tell her all the time, ‘you were really freaking out, huh?’.
On her reaction to seeing the film for the first time:
Lizzie Velasquez: I’d seen a lot of different versions of it leading up to SXSW. I was just speechless and crying and happy and humbled and
shaking–all at the same time because it was me. It was my story, it was my family. There was no sugar coating anything, it was real, it was every single aspect that has gotten me to this point. It’s just been one of the biggest dreams come true that I never knew that I had. To see and hear my parents’ reaction on the first time they watched it, I couldn’t even hear the movie because they were crying so hard. It’s just us and it’s just so true to who we are. Nothing that has happened has been lost on us. Every single thing has just been so unbelievably amazing. To see the ups and downs that I’ve gone through in my life to have that moment at SXSW.
Her coming to terms to baring everything on the big screen to help others be brave and what she hopes audiences will feel:
Lizzie Velasquez: I’m grateful that you see this film and feel inspired and that you were able to relate to some point throughout this film.
Don’t ever think that someone who seems really happy, that they have it all together. Don’t ever take that as their truth because I learned throughout my life how to hide behind a smile. Take the time out to just talk to someone and hear what they have to say. I think you’ll be very surprised.
On the power of forgiveness and appreciating those who take the time to make amends:
Lizzie Velasquez: I’ve had people reach out and apologize to me not necessarily because of the video, but from other instances of saying not so nice things about me. There are many websites and photos and memes that people have posted of me even recently. They’ll be sent around, sometimes go viral and sometimes they won’t. There will be people who either post them or share them and say they’re so funny then they’ll find out my story and what I stand for. I’ve got a lot of messages of people just apologizing and admitting what they’ve done. I do reply and very appreciative of that.
What she defines the term Bullying as and how she hopes helping to understand it will help others cope with what it does and where it comes from:
Lizzie Velasquez: How do I define bullying? I would define bullying as someone is coming from a place of hurt, and the only way that they see they can make themselves feel better is to hurt somebody else. I think that a lot of times the bully is struggling with something in their personal life. Maybe, it’s something that they see at home, that being mean to other people is normal. Maybe, it’s something that they see on TV or in a movie where other people are being not so nice and they’re seen as the cool person and I think a lot of times we just have to remember when someone is being mean to someone else they’re really doing it from a place of hurt themselves. Although it’s hurting the victim, you have to remind yourself I don’t know what’s going on in their lives. You have to be more considerate and know that they might need a friend, they might need someone to talk to or just to be introduced to another way of making themselves feel better instead of having to bully somebody else.
The anti-bullying legislation is more then 80% supported by democrats, less than 20% republican. To coincide with the release, a screening is planned on Capitol Hill for the house to help it make it to the floor. You can go to ImWithLizzie.com to type in your zip code, find your rep and either thank them for supporting the bill if they already are or message them to encourage their vote!
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story comes out and is available on VOD this Friday!
WATCH: Lizzie’s Amazing TED Talk