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12 Life Lessons From a Woman Who Turned Her Rare Syndrome Into an Inspirational Message

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie Velasquez has a pretty recognizable face. Maybe you've seen her viral TedTalks, like the one where she explains why she chooses to be happy or the one where she asks how you define yourself. Maybe you've read one of her books—her third will be published later this year. Or maybe you're one of the thousands of people who subscribe to her YouTube channel or follow her on Instagram

The 25-year-old was born with a very rare (as in, only two other people in the entire world have it) syndrome that is still undiagnosed, but which prevents her from gaining weight. A few years ago, a different viral video—one that called her "The Ugliest Woman in the World"—surfaced online. 

But Lizzie didn't let it bring her down. She used that video as an opportunity to tell her story, which has spread and earned celebrity endorsements from the likes of Sara Bareilles, Ariana Grande, and Katie Couric.

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E! Loves had the chance to sit down with Lizzie to talk about her life, her new documentary, and to pick up on some advice (she's now a motivational speaker, after all). Here are the 12 best bits we got:

1. On body image:

Lizzie Velasquez

2. On facing adversity:

Lizzie Velasquez

"It's a process that I had to figure out, of how to handle negative comments. When I was younger, I would just sit there and read every single one and obviously, it was awful. There were times when I felt like people were physically putting their hands through the computer and really hurting me on purpose."

3. But not letting it affect you:

Lizzie Velasquez

4. On not hating on the haters:

Lizzie Velasquez

"There's days where I'm like, in my mind, ‘I wish I could tell this person something!' But it's not going to accomplish anything. It's just going to be me sinking down to their level and a never-ending battle of hiding behind a computer screen."

5. On what makes us all different, and what makes us the same:

Lizzie Velasquez

"I'm human, and if I see someone who looks different, I'm curious. And I still have the, ‘How do I act? I don't want to offend them! What do I say?' I've learned that there's one very simply thing that every single person can do, and all it is is looking someone in the eye, acknowledging that they're a human being just like you and me, smiling and saying hi. It opens up a world of doors that people don't realize."

6. On staying positive:

Lizzie Velasquez

"If someone compliments me on my eye makeup, I get really excited, because I can only see out of one eye, so I'm literally putting makeup on blind.

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7. On finding humor in the unfunny:

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie says finding something funny in any situation is "what I was raised knowing." An example is when she has to speak in front of large crowds: "This is where being visually impaired really comes to play, because in my mind, I can only physically see half the room, and if it's dark lighting I can't even see them, period!"

8. The best advice she's ever gotten:

Lizzie Velasquez

"No matter where you're at, no matter who you're around, always stay true to who you are. Don't ever change who you are to try to be popular or make friends. Stay true to who you are, be proud of who you are. Walk into a room and be confident and own your personality, your values, and everything about yourself. And everything will kind of just fall into place."

9. The best advice she's ever given:

Lizzie Velasquez

"I think the best advice I've ever given is to not ever give up. I feel like it's kind of a cliché thing to say like, ‘Oh, don't give up, it will get better.' But honestly, getting that message across, to not give up, to keep that hope alive, is something I'm very passionate about. Because I've been in that place."

10. Her grand message:

Lizzie Velasquez

Plus, two little tricks to living a happier life...

11. Make a Positivity Playlist:

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie says she has a "Happy Playlist" she keeps handy at all times. What's on the latest edition? "Definitely 'Happy' by Pharrell. Clearly, that's going to be on it. Even when you hear the tune of it, you're going to be in a good mood. "

12. And when all else fails, ask What Would Julia Roberts Do?

Lizzie Velasquez

"I love her because she's just such a down-to-earth person, from what I see, clearly I don't go to her house for coffee every day...Her smile seems so geniuine. She's all about her family and friends."

Now, Lizzie is making her very first documentary and she's using Kickstarter to fund it. To find out more about Lizzie and her Kickstarter campaign (you can donate here!), watch part of our interview below:

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