But for one or two small details Lizzie Velásquez would be a normal, 24-year-old woman. Deemed the “World’s Ugliest Woman” in a YouTube video that went viral when she was in high school, Velásquez has a rare syndrome that makes her look a lot older than she is and prevents her from gaining weight. Through it all, the Texas State University alumna says that she’s going to let her inner beauty define her, not what people think of her outer appearance. Velásquez has become a motivational speaker, asking audiences, “How do you define yourself?”
"It's not easy, I will be the first to tell you it's not easy," Velásquez told Dr. Drew Pinsky on an episode of his show in 2012. "I may have this outer exterior of people saying, 'She can handle everything, she's dealt with this for so long,' and to be honest, I'm human and of course these things are going to hurt."
Velásquez has a rare condition that prevents her from gaining weight, even though she eats every 15 minutes. The Texas native has never weighed more than 64 pounds in her entire life, the International Business Times reported. Her condition also causes an accelerated aging of her face and body that makes her look decades older. Though doctors haven’t quite pinpointed what Velásquez has, some experts believe she has a form of neonatal progeroid syndrome, also known as Wiedemann-Rautenstrauch syndrome (WRS). The genetic disorder is extremely rare, with only one or two people in the world currently living with it. The syndrome is characterized by elderly appearance, inability to store body fat, thin skin, and rigid joints.
With the support of her family, Velásquez has not let her condition or people’s cruelty define how she moves through life. Instead, she rises above the negativity by disseminating a message of love and respect for yourself and others. Her “How do you define yourself?” TED talk has already garnered close to half a million views on YouTube. Velásquez has also authored three books, including one entitled Be Beautiful, Be You.
"I've had a really difficult life, but that's OK," Velásquez said. "I'm going to let my goals and my success and my accomplishments define me, not my outer appearance."
Watch Velásquez’s captivating talk below, as well as a short clip from when she was featured on the Discovery Channel: