Nearly ten years ago, Lizzie Velasquez was one of the many who was victim to cyberbullying when she was just 17 years old. Instead of letting that get her down, she took that experience and grew from it. Cyberbullying has been a growing problem for years, and although awareness of the issue has grown, there are still many who experience some form of cyberbullying.Now, at 27, Lizzie is a motivational speaker and an author of three novels, and her first documentary, “A Brave Heart”, just premiered at South by Southwest (SxSW) in March.
While at SxSW, Lizzie sat at a panel with her friend and colleague, Justine Ezarik – known to many as iJustine on Youtube – and together they discussed everything Lizzie had been through, as well as what it was like to film the documentary.
Lizzie was born with a congenital disease which, until recently, was unknown to most doctors. Lizzie is one of two people who have this disease in the world, and one of its biggest issues is it keeps the body from gaining weight. Someone on Youtube had posted of video of her, calling her the ugliest person in the world, and that is what led Lizzie to become a motivational speaker.
By the end of the SxSW panel, Lizzie made sure to leave a few lasting words with the audience.
“I hope you leave (after watching her documentary) more inspired for yourself and, honestly, a little bit angry,” Lizzie said. “Stand beside me against cyberbullying.”
One of Lizzie’s campaigns is about taking the high road when it comes to cyberbullying. As great as it is that so many people try to stop others from sending hateful words on the internet, they are not doing it the right way. Stopping hate with hate never got anyone anywhere.
Everyone should take the high road when it comes to cyberbullying. On Lizzie’s website for her documentary, there is a video called the “High Road Movement,” and it is a visual presentation of what taking the high road is all about.
According to Lizzie, what people who experience or witness cyberbullying have to do is take that negative energy and turn it into positive energy, just as she did. Ten years ago she saw a hateful video about herself followed by hateful comments wishing the worst on her, and she took that and grew from it.
During the Q&A at her panel, one brave teen went up to the microphone in tears.
“Lizzie, I just want to say that you have changed my life (…) thank you so much,” she said.
And she wasn’t the only one in tears either. All around the room, sounds of sniffling could be heard. Lizzie Velasquez’s optimism and ability to see such great things in the world is inspiring and contagious.
“Lizzie made me think of myself in a different way. She doesn’t let her disease define her, and I’ll never let anyone or anything define me either,” said 17-year-old Brianna Nance.
The American Society for the Positive Care of Children said “Nationwide, 14.8% of students report being cyberbullied, including being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) report, by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)” as of June 2014.
By taking Lizzie’s story and words seriously, more people can begin taking the high road and start making a serious difference when it comes to cyberbullying.