The 24-year-old Texan, Lizzie Velasquez, was born with a very rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining any weight. She is one of the three people on Earth who were born with the condition. She has never weighed more than 64 pounds in her entire life, and she is blind in her right eye.
When she was in high school, she discovered an eight-second video of herself on YouTube that featured a photo of her face. The video labeled her the "World's Ugliest Woman" and it had more than 4 million hits.
As you can imagine, the comments that went along with the millions of views were terrible, and though her parents tried to get the video off the site, the unidentified user wouldn't take it down since it had been viewed more than 4 million times. Velasquez wanted to fight back at some of the commenters, but she decided to deal with the pain in a different way.
"Am I gonna let the people who called me a monster define me?...No. I'm gonna let my goals and my success and my accomplishments be the things that define me," she said.
"After years of feeling as if my syndrome had defeated me I realized that the only way that would change is if I change my attitude about it. Because of this syndrome it has helped in just about every aspect of my life. It has taught me that in any situation, as long as I am willing to put an effort in and stay strong in my faith I can get through whatever situation it might be." Velasquez said in an interview with Beliefnet.
At a recent TED Talk in Austin,TX, Velasquez shared her life story before asking the crowd, "What defines you?"
"For so long, I thought what defined me was my outer appearance," she told them, admitting that when she was younger, she woke up every day wanting to look different.
But thanks to the support of her family, Velasquez found the strength to rise above the bullying and negative thoughts: "My life is in my hands. I could either choose to make this really good or choose to make this really bad."
She vowed to become a motivational speaker, an author and a college graduate. And she is using her faith to help diminish the hate that comes her way by overriding it with an inspirational message of love and acceptance.
"It's been my rock through everything, just having the time to be alone and pray and talk to God and know that He's there for me," said Velasquez.
"The best way that I could get back at all those people who made fun of me...was to make myself better," she said, sharing how she chose to turn around the negative things and use them as a ladder to reach her goals.
Her message has touched many. Velasquez wrote about the overwhelming response to her talk on her Facebook page on January 7:
"Before I went to bed last night I thanked God for the INCREDIBLE messages of support and love I've been flooded with. I also prayed for the people who are hurting in their own lives and in turn take it out on me," she wrote on Facebook. "This morning when I woke up, my phone, email, twitter, YouTube, and Facebook were about to explode with love!! I've said it before and I'll say it again, THANK YOU! Thank you for believing in my message and thank you for helping me share my story."