Lizzie Velasquez 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”.
Lizzie 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 58 lbs.
The rare condition still baffles doctors and is thought to affect just two other people worldwide.
Lizzie 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, Lizzie 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 Lizzie Velasquez realized 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,” she 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, Lizzie 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>>.”
Lizzie 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.”
Lizzie Velasquez was born four weeks prematurely weighing just 2 lb 10 oz. Doctors found there was minimal amniotic fluid protecting her in the womb.
“They told us they had no idea how she could have survived,” her mother Rita Velasquez, 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 Lizzie 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 Lizzie’s father Lupe – both children are of average height and weight.
Despite the grim prognosis Lizzie Velasquez’s brain, bones and internal organs developed normally but she was always very small.
At the age of two she was still only 15 lbs – the same as the average five-month-old baby.
Born with two brown eyes, when Lizzie 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.”
Lizzie 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.
Prof. Abhimanyu Garg and his team now believe Lizzie 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.”
Lizzie 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.
Her new book is out on September 13.