She took an instance of unbearable cyberbullying and transformed it into something more meaningful: an opportunity to engage, connect, and educate others about difference. She is Lizzie Velasquez, a young woman born with an intensely rare syndrome that disallows her from gaining weight. Lizzie is committed to living a life of self-love and positivity, to defining herself on her own terms and with her own accomplishments, which are multiplying at a dizzying rate. Lizzie is a reknowned motivational speaker, college graduate, and author (Lizzie Beautiful, Be Beautiful, Be You, and a third manuscript in the works) and she’s just getting started. Lizzie radiates the message that she lives by, one that has created a perpetual wave of inspiration and energy around the globe that giddily ripples back to its source. “The best part of my day,” says Lizzie, “is waking up, doing my daily routine, and checking my phone to see it flooded with love from people around the world.”
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
If I could sit down and write a list of all the girls in my life that I’ve met who not only rock but inspire me beyond measure, I’d have a list as long as a football field! There is one girl who stands out to me above all the rest. A tiny, divalicious, loving and hilarious 6-year-old girl named Adalia Rose. Adalia was born with Progeria, a condition that is somewhat similar to mine in that we are both very tiny. I had been following the story of this incredible little girl for some time now and with the power of social media found out that not only did Adalia live in Texas, she lived about an hour away from me. Adalia’s mom and I connected and I had the honor of going to Adalia’s house for a play date and some girl time. As soon as I met her I knew we had a very special bond. This little bundle of joy surprised me when she had her mom turn on some music and she busted out her best dance moves and was shaking it like nobody was watching. I was even lucky enough to have my make up done in Adalia’s princess themed play room. At such a young age she has had many medical issues and recently suffered from a stroke at the age of 6. Having Progeria could affects a persons attitude about life very much but not Adalia! The self proclaimed “Diva” is an upbeat, loving, and incredible girl who rocks it every single day. The photo here was taken on the day I met her.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
When I started college I had my life planned out. I wanted to be a professional speaker, write a couple books, and who knows, make a difference in a few peoples lives. Never in a million years would I have thought that my dreams would surpass anything I couldn’t imagined. It absolutely blows my mind that I literally sat in front of my laptop, went to Google, and typed in “How to be a motivational speaker.” I’ve never had any coaching, no training, or any classes. To look back now and see that a small dream I started in my bedroom has turned into a career that I adore, supporters from around the world, and the platform to not only share my message but to be the person that I always wished I had to turn to when I was younger. I’m at a point in my life where I find myself thinking whats next? I’ve been blessed with so many amazing opportunities that there’s no way I could tell myself ok, everything I wanted happened so I’m done now. Now, I’m in the process of creating a new set of goals and ambitions. I have a goal of speaking in every state in the U.S at least once. I want to write a children's book series and I also want to focus on empowering young girls and women. My eyes have been opened to a whole world of possibilities and I can’t wait to dive in and see what’s next!
What are you most proud of?
There are many things in my life that I’m very proud of but I think the biggest thing that I am proud of is that I continued to fight through every single bad day even when I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I’m proud of the fact that through my personal journey of growth and acceptance I was given the platform to use the things I’ve learned to help people around the world. I’m not only proud of that but I’m beyond grateful for it.
What piece of advice changed your life?
The best piece of advice that I was ever given and that helped change my life was when my parents sat me down and explained to me that no matter how much other kids were teasing me, or how upset I’d get about other people judging me, I always needed to put a smile on my face and be myself. They encouraged me to never change who I am in order to fit in or be a part of the “popular group.” Their positive re-enforcing of me staying true to who I am will be something I carry with me every day for the rest of my life.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I see myself focusing more on my personal life. I see myself buying my first home, being in a fairytale romance just like my parents, and spending more time with the people I love. Career wise, I see myself growing my brand, possibly starting my own company and who knows, maybe even an awesome office with a gorgeous view!
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
The number one item on my bucket list is to speak in every state in the United States at least once.
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
The biggest female influence in my life has been my mom. It sounds like such a cliche answer but there’s no way on earth I’d be there person I am today without her. From the precious letters she wrote me every single day when I was born all they way up to high school. A memory i will cherish forever is that I had no clue my mom had been writing me these letters until I was in college. After spending a weekend at home I went back to my dorm to unpack and find a big envelope with a composition book and note pad. After my confusion i sat at my desk reading every letter and crying my eyes out because as I was reading them I could hear her voice in my head. She described every detail of what I did growing up. The days I was good and the not so good days when I wasn’t. In the letters she expressed her fears of the unknown with my condition and all that entailed. It was something I would’ve had no clue about if it wasn’t for those letters. It wasn’t until one specific letter that I completely broke down. About mid way through one of the journals a letter explained how she didn’t know when or how she was going to give me the letters but she knew that one day I’d be sitting in my college dorm room reading them and that’s exactly what I was doing. Her strong faith in knowing from the get go that I was going to succeed beyond any expectations is the biggest influence I’ve ever had.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
The biggest risk I’ve ever taken was going in front of 400 freshmen at my high school and for the very first time in my life, share my story and the struggles I went through growing up. For many years up until that point I was convinced that not one person would ever be able to relate to me because they don’t have my syndrome. It wasn’t until the very second I ended my speech did it occur to me that people don’t have to be in my shoes to be able to relate to a topic I’ve struggled with.
Why are you THAT GIRL?
I believe I am THAT GIRL because I’ve learned the magical lesson of learning how to love yourself from the inside out and believing with all my heart and soul that I was put on this earth for a reason. I believe I am THAT GIRL because I’m living proof that you can feel as though life handed you the worst hand but it is without a doubt possible to change out that hand and turn it into a world of possibilities.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor