Woman responds to extreme cyber bullying with TedTalk, documentary, and legislative advocacy

Children, and society in general, can be cruel to those who seem ‘different’ or operate outside of the status quo. Lizzie Velasquez knows this fact exceptionally well. Growing up, Velasquez endured bullying and discrimination from her peers as a reaction to her rare congenital disease, a neonatal progeroid syndrome. One of the diseases results is Velasquez being unable to gain any weight. Velasquez was also the subject of extreme cyber bullying at the age of seventeen, when a video describing her as the “ugliest woman in the world” went viral on YouTube. Since then, Velasquez has worked hard to speak out against all forms of bullying. She does this, in part, by sharing her personal experiences. This past September saw the premiere of a documentary featuring Velasquez, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story. Directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo, the film has set out to do as its title says and tell Velasquez’s story – from Velasquez’s original discovery of the video made about her, to the TedTalk she was inspired to give in response, to her current call to action against bullying. As Velasquez states, “All I know is being knocked down and getting back up. I’m not gonna go away until they listen.”

Visit the documentary’s official website, ImWithLizzie.com, to learn more about Velasquez, and how to host a screening or show in your school.

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Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.