Lizzie Velasquez has put herself out there by way of motivational speaking and Internet fame, but she never signed up to be the subject of a cruel meme. Velasquez, who was born with a rare, undiagnosed congenital disease that causes the inability to put on body fat, came upon a meme using her picture and poking fun at her frail appearance.
Brave woman that she is, she shared the meme herself to call attention to the carelessness with which we entertain ourselves on the Internet.
The meme features a photo of her standing next to a tree and reads, “Michael said he would meet me behind this tree for a bit of fun. He’s running late, will someone please tag him and tell him I’m still waiting.” Which, by the way, wouldn’t have been funny even if it didn’t poke fun at someone’s condition. It’s a poorly made meme for so many reasons.
“I’m writing this post not as someone who is a victim but as someone who is using their voice,” Velasquez began. “Yes, it’s very late at night as I type this but I do so as a reminder that the innocent people that are being put in these memes are probably up just as late scrolling through Facebook and feeling something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day we are all human. I ask that you keep that in mind the next time you see a viral meme of a random stranger. At the time you might find it hilarious but the human in the photo is probably feeling the exact opposite,” she expressed, pointing out something most of us are probably guilty of without even realizing it. “Spread love not hurtful words via a screen.”
And even though she did post it late at night, her mature response to the meme was a huge hit. Hours later she shared a video thanking her followers for their support. “Today I posted what I did at 3 a.m. just thinking whoever was up late was going to see it and as of recently there’s almost 10,000 of you that have shared my post,” she said graciously.
“I posted what I did as a way to use my platform that you guys have given me. To be able to use my voice and say, just, when you see something online remember that there is a human that is being affected by it,” she said, painting memes in a whole new light. “It might be funny at the time but there is someone who’s probably not feeling that it’s that funny. Think before you tweet, think before you share, think before you like. Because we just want to be accepted. That’s it.”
She informed her Facebook followers that one of the groups that promoted this mean meme had been shut down by Facebook. “I’m over the moon with gratitude!!!!! Positive change is possible when we all work together!!!” she wrote.
This isn’t the first time Velasquez has inspired the world with her wisdom. In 2006, an anonymous person posted a video of Velasquez at age 13 and titled it “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” Unfortunately, it went viral. But years later, it’s her response that everyone remembers. She wrote a letter to the user who posted the video asking why that person did such a cruel thing and explaining how it affected her. “Every time I thought I might be pretty, or that I’d finally fit in, or that maybe having this syndrome isn’t so bad — all of that was demolished as soon as I found your post,” she wrote. “Please believe me when I say finding that video felt like a curse at the time, but little did I know it was one of the biggest blessings in disguise I’ve ever had in my life,” she said so eloquently.
Since then, Velasquez has written books, given speeches with TED, and become the subject of an award-winning documentary. She’s gone from cyberbullying victim to cyberbullying activist.