Lizzie Velasquez, a 26-year-old motivational speaker, author and anti-bullying activist, spoke Friday evening about her experience combating bullying stemming from a condition which prevents her from gaining weight.
Velasquez concluded UT Real Beauty, a yearly month-long campaign which aims to redefine how women perceive beauty. Velasquez said after finding a video online that labeled her the ugliest woman alive, she used motivational speaking to turn negativity into positive action. Since then, she has written three books, given a TED Talk, and starred in a documentary about her own life.
“I let motivational speaking come into my life,” Velasquez said. “I went out and taught myself how to be a public speaker. I wanted to get on the stage, tell people who I am and that I’m 150 percent proud of it. Motivational speaking has taught me that we are all alike.”
Bullying does not discriminate, Velasquez said. Over time, she said, the way she understood beauty changed.
“I didn’t even want to look at myself when I was younger,” Velasquez said. “But now, my definition of beauty is not looks. It’s the way that you lead your life, and the way you are able to help people.”
UT’s Real Beauty campaign was held during the month of October by a number of spirit groups on campus.
Paige Gilmer, nursing junior and planning committee member, said Velasquez is the perfect finale keynote speaker because she has remained positive in the face of adversity and is a role model.
“Throughout the [campaign], the biggest thing I leave with is feeling positive and motivated, so if people leave here feeling like that, I know what we have accomplished a lot,” Gilmore said.
Neuroscience freshman Diego Macias said he attended Velasquez’s presentation because bullying is a big problem in schools today and he was inspired by the trailer for her South by Southwest documentary.
“As soon as I read on Facebook that she was coming here, I thought this is going to be pretty exciting,” Macias said. “To me, she is a really big celebrity because her message is
Velasquez said she is working on her fourth novel but is looking forward to taking time off to have a personal and social life.
“I now live my life in a way where I enjoy not knowing what the future holds,” Velasquez said. “I am at a place where I am so grateful of where my life is.”