From theater to Disney, my life has constantly been filled with places where I need to smile. I enjoy smiling. When I see others smiling, my heart feels lighter especially if I helped bring about their joy. I don’t mind keeping a smile on my face for hours on end when I see it positively influencing others.
However, I sometimes feel more like crying than smiling. Then, I realize that people think of me as someone who always smiles. Who would I be without my smile? This haunts me.
Lizzie Velasquez will never forget the day she came upon a YouTube video with 4 million views and thousands of mean comments naming her the “World’s Ugliest Woman.” She was only 17 years old.
“When I saw it my whole world just felt like it crashed at that moment,” Velasquez, 26, tells PEOPLE of the experience that inspired her new documentary A Brave Heart, which premiered on Saturday at SXSW in Austin, Texas. “I thought, how in the world can I ever pick myself up from this?”
But Velasquez – who weighs just 63 lbs. due to a rare syndrome that doesn’t allow her to gain weight – did just that by becoming an anti-bullying activist and motivational speaker.
“If I ever see that person [who made the video] I would jump on them and give them the biggest hug in the world and tell them, ‘Thank you for…
My freshman year of college was a downward spiral with my anorexia growing stronger each day. One dream that I thought of both to roll myself out of bed to face the day and to limit the food I consumed was treating myself to a red dress. The goal of losing enough weight to be worthy of this was constantly on my mind.
I hated clothing shopping until the age of 18. Even now, the process overwhelms as the store speakers blast music, clothing colors and textures make my head ache, and people jabbering frighten me. But as my freshmen year continued, I began to shop for clothing at Goodwill and other thrift stores by myself (no Mom involved) for the first time. This was some of the only free time that I had from homework. At first, buying new outfits was a necessity because of the changes in my body. However, I slowly began to like finding my own style and redoing my wardrobe. Despite the darkness in this time of my life, being able to blossom in this area and make my own fashion decisions was rather fun. Self-hate ate away at me as the anorexia intensified, but a new confidence in styling myself as a woman grew.
The other day, I began to create a picture of mountains with a green valley between them. Using my oil pastels, I hoped to create a beautiful depiction of nature. However, my sister Christine stood over my work for a few seconds and declared, “That looks like a peacock’s tail.” Surprised and a bit confused, I tilted my head and attempted to see it as she did. After gazing at the flowered meadow between the mountains, I realized that she was correct. Suddenly, I had an idea; why not make a mountain ridge and a peacock?
So, I finished my work of rather surreal art. Yes there are mountains around a valley but that green grass also serves as the tail to a giant peacock. Confusing, right? This made me begin to think about how things are not always as they first seem. For years, artists have used this playful technique to confuse and surprise us. Musicians, architects, writers, and actors have used it as well. Even professors employ this technique to stump their students. Thus, causing people to see only part of message or meaning at first is not a new idea.
I am a visual learner. Often this serves me well. There is an amazing thrill that I get out of arranging flowers in a vase, viewing art in a museum, or taking a walk in the woods.
However being a visual learner has its downsides. Scary movies or images on the news leave me traumatized for years. Without a map, I quickly loss my way. And if I listen to a person talk without watching their mouth, I have great difficulty remembering anything that was said.
But one of the most difficult problems with taking in so much information visually is the focus on my outward image. There are countless mornings that I stand in front of the mirror and stare at myself. Whether because of a red bump on my face or fat on my legs, I end up feeling utterly disgusting in my own skin. How can I go through the day when I look and feel like such a worthless brat? Continue reading →