Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Lessons from Lizzie Velasquez, 23, “World’s Ugliest Woman”
She has been ridiculed, stared at in the street and called ‘the world’s ugliest woman’ by insensitive cyber bullies.
But, after years of misery and self doubt, Lizzie Velasquez says she can finally shrug off the hurtful comments about her looks as ‘just words’.
Miss Velasquez, from Austin, Texas, was born without adipose tissue – meaning she has no body fat and, despite eating up to 60 small meals a day, remains at a delicate 4.4stone (58lbs).
The rare condition still baffles doctors and is thought to affect just two other people worldwide.
Miss Velazquez has now written a second book about her struggle to be accepted and hopes it will help others in a similar position.
In Be Beautiful, Be You the 23-year-old college senior shares advice on being unique, how to make and keep good friends and how to deal with bullying and negativity.
Speaking to Dr Drew Pinsky on Tuesday night about her experiences, Miss Velasquez said when cyber bullies first started attacking her online it was hard.
She told Dr Drew: ‘I’m human… of course these things are going to hurt… (but) I’m not going to let those things define me.’
Eventually Miss Velasquez realised the people issuing the hurtful comments online were just cowards hiding behind a computer screen.
‘At the end of the day, these are just words,’ Miss Velasquez told Dr Drew. ‘If they are so proud, then they should show their face.’
When asked how she deals with being constantly stared at in the street Miss Velasquez said: ‘I’m starting to want to go up to these people and introduce myself or give them my card and say, “Hi, I’m Lizzie – maybe you should stop staring and start learning”.’
Miss Velasquez also revealed she does not have any desire to look like a beautiful celebrity.
She said: ‘I feel I’m really glad I don’t look like the celebrities out there who are beautiful, because there are a lot of stereotypes attached to that.
‘People think “she’s so pretty, she must be really dumb”. Since I don’t look like that it’s better because people can get to know the real me.’
Miss Velasquez was born four weeks prematurely weighing just 2lb 10oz. Doctors found there was minimal amniotic fluid protecting her in the womb.
‘They told us they had no idea how she could have survived,’ Miss Velasquez’s mother Rita, 45, a church secretary, said.
‘We had to buy dolls’ clothes from the toy store because baby clothes were too big.’ Doctors could not make a diagnosis so they prepared Miss Velasquez’s parents for the worst.
‘They told us she would never be able to walk, talk or have a normal life,’ said her mother, who has two other children with Miss Velasquez’s father Lupe – both children are of average height and weight.
Despite the grim prognosis Miss Velasquez’s brain, bones and internal organs developed normally but she was always very small.
At the age of two she was still only 15lbs – the same as the average five-month-old baby.
Born with two brown eyes, when Miss Velasquez was four the right began to cloud and change hue. Doctors then discovered she had gone blind in that eye.
‘They still don’t know why it happened but now I have one blue and one brown eye.’
Miss Velasquez’s case has fascinated doctors all over the world and she is part of a genetic study run by Professor Abhimanyu Garg at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Professor Garg and his team now believe Miss Velasquez may have a form of Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome (NPS), which causes accelerated ageing, fat loss from the face and body, and tissue degeneration. People with PRS often have triangular and prematurely aged faces with a pointy nose.
He said: ‘I am aware of a small number of people that have similar conditions to Lizzie but each case is slightly different.
‘We cannot predict what will happen to Lizzie in the future, as the medical community are yet to document older people with NPS.
‘However Lizzie is lucky to have healthy teeth, organs and bones so the outlook is good. We will continue to study her case and learn from her.’
Miss Velasquez doesn’t take medication but she relies on vitamin supplements and iron to stay healthy. It is thought she should be able to conceive naturally without passing the condition to her children.