After Being Called "The World's Ugliest Woman," She's Teaching Us All Something About The Danger Of Judgement

Photo: Courtesy of Cinedigm.
Lizzie Velasquez is used to being on camera. Velasquez, who suffers from a rare condition that prevents her from gaining weight, is a vlogger whose YouTube channel has over 450,000 subscribers. But when she began filming the documentary about her life, A Brave Heart, she was determined not to cry.

“Since I’ve started my YouTube channel, I’ve really grown into feeling comfortable with showing a tiny peek of being vulnerable,” she said during a recent interview with Refinery 29 in New York. “At the beginning of filming, I told Sara [Hirsh Bordo, the film's director] I wasn’t going to cry on camera because I never show that side, and that went out the window very quickly.”

A Brave Heart explores how Velasquez turned her childhood bullying and the traumatic experience of being called “The World’s Ugliest Woman” on YouTube into a vocation of activism and motivational speaking. The movie follows Velasquez as she goes to the doctor to learn about her diagnosis — she has a combination of Marfan syndrome and lipodystrophy — and battles illness while on Capitol Hill lobbying for anti-bullying legislation.

Velasquez says that she and Bordo did not aim to make a longer version of the 2013 TED talk that propelled Velasquez to a wider audience.

“Lizzie’s vlogging is almost always very insular. It all takes place in her apartment. It’s first person,” Bordo explained. “It’s all about who Lizzie is. What I wanted to show is how Lizzie became Lizzie, and that’s where her amazing parents became a very, very, very important piece.” While we spoke, Velasquez's mother, Rita, was in the room, along with producers Jessica Chou and Ngoc Nguyen. Velasquez cited the women present when asked who inspires her.
Recently, Velasquez has found an unlikely bedfellow in her anti-bullying crusade: Kylie Jenner, who featured Velasquez’s story as part of her #IAmMoreThan campaign. “I had a chance to talk to her on the phone,” Velasquez said. “When you hear the names, you instantly have all of these ideas as to what they are like. I was very surprised at how vulnerable she was with me, and to open up on how she’s been treated online and things of that nature. I just think it was so awesome to have such a huge, huge platform to be able to highlight other people, not only me, but the other five people that she highlighted.”

Did Velasquez have any preconceived notions about a member of the Jenner family? No, that’s not her style. “I come from the mindset of: You can’t judge someone, because you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s how I feel about myself,” she shared. “I feel like a lot of people can’t judge me if they don’t know who I am. I wouldn’t say that I had all of these ideas, because I always remind myself that you don’t really know what’s going on in their life.”

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is in theaters and on demand September 25.

More from Movies

As if winning an Oscar wasn't enough, actress Lupita Nyong'o just proved that she has another talent under her belt: freestyle rapping. The 33-year-old ...
There are few movies that just beg to be parodied more than Fifty Shades of Grey. But High School Musical comes pretty darn close. In case you haven't ...
This month, many 15-year-olds are just getting in the back-to-school swing of things. But Auli'i Cravalho's schedule is a little bit different: The teen ...
The 1960s never seemed creepier than in Rose McGowan’s haunting short film, Dawn (2014). McGowan, whose long acting résumé includes roles on TV megahits ...
Growing up is hard to do. Before "adulting" — that is, clumsily impersonating our role models and pretending we have our lives together — became a buzzword...
Every once in a while, a documentary comes out and changes the world. For 2016, 13th is destined to do just that. A film from notable director, ...
For women, Star Wars costumes used to mean one thing: Princess Leia. There were variations within the theme — Danish side-bun Leia, Hoth Leia, gold-bikini-...
As long as Harry Potter fans keep rewatching the beloved movies, they'll keep finding new reasons the series will make you cry. The latest discovery? Harry...
The documentary world can be overwhelming. Think of a topic — broad or obscure — and very likely a movie has probably been made about it. Biographies, ...
Luna Lovegood is one of the most memorable characters from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Later, the eccentric character was brought to life by the ...
Few things bring cinephiles joy quite like spending the weekend holed up in a movie theater, devouring the latest silver screen debuts. Though the biggest ...
There comes a point in every person's life when Netflix just isn't enough. Despite there being countless options on the popular streaming service, ...
Double check the calendar: It's officially fall. The leaves are changing, Halloween is looming, and cuffing season is just around the corner. What does ...
Five months after a controversy formed around the casting of Scarlett Johanssen as a Japanese woman in Ghost in the Shell, the teasers are here. For the ...