As the new year gets off to a start, many folks are looking for that “new year new you” combination of resolutions.
What about you? Will you lose weight? Cut back on the beverages? Get fit? A lot of us spend a lot of time – wasting it really – thinking about how we look. But 26-year-old Lizzie Velasquez doesn’t worry about that. She’s a motivational speaker, author and documentary star.
Velasquez loves clothes and her fluffy little white dog. She lives on her own in an apartment in Austin. But she also has her own YouTube channel, with more than 500, 000 subscribers, which is probably the first sign that she’s a little more than typical.
Velasquez is 5-foot-2. She weighs less than 65 pounds. She looks a little delicate, and she is. She’s unable to gain weight. In her lifetime, a lot of people have said hurtful things about her looks. In 2013 she gave a Ted Talk and called them all out.
“When I was in high school, I found a video of me, unfortunately, labeling me the world’s ugliest woman,” she says.
Velasquez decided to channel all that hate and show people how small they were – by showing them how successful she could be. The Ted Talk was followed by a documentary last year – called “A Brave Heart.” These days, people react to her a little differently.
“It’s been a very surreal year to be able to have the film out now and to have the DVD on sale,” she says. “I think the people who have seen the film feel like they know me and my family and so there’s sort of a different connection.”
Velasquez is very open about her life in some ways, she shares her travels and some of her personal struggles with friends on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
“A lot of my life is very public – especially with the movie coming out,” she says. “But at the end of the day, I’m just a normal 26-year-old girl who just wants to have a normal life.”
One way she’s tried to make life more normal, for herself and for anyone who has struggled with being labeled or insulted or belittled online or off, is by launching a campaign against bullying. With some help from big names, like Chris Hemsworth, for example.
At Lizzie Velasquez’s next public speaking event at Prevention Magazine’s R3 Summit in Austin next weekend she’ll be talking about something she’s never talked about before.
“I was diagnosed a year and a half ago and this past year I was just processing it on a personal level,” she says. “Now I’m at a point where I understand it and I’m ready to talk about it. So I’ll be talking about what it’s like just living with a diagnosis and having a name to something that’s been a mystery for 25 years.”
The diagnosis is neonatal progeroid syndrome. There are likely only a handful of people in the world like her. It may prevent Velasquez from meeting some people’s definition of beautiful, but not her own.
“I think it’s important for women to be reminded that you don’t have to look like everybody else. It’s important to look like what your version of beautiful is,” Velasquez says. “To me, what makes someone beautiful is their character and their personality and how they treat other people and what their values are.”
So what’s her New Year’s resolution?
“I don’t know. It’s hard because I feel like last year all of my dreams came true and this year I think I’m just wanting to live life day by day,” she says.
Velasquez says that may mean disconnecting from Instagram and YouTube and the public speaking circuit a little to take some time for herself.