The title of the ‘ugliest’ species on earth goes to… us

Published: May 12, 2017

To her, beauty was what she saw on glossy magazine covers not what she saw reflecting in the mirrors. PHOTO: GOODREADS

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder – it is relative, it is virtue, it resides within one’s heart. Beauty is also kindness and love.

But is it really? For all practical purposes, is it really? Lizzie Velasquez’s cyber bullying ordeal 10 years ago was living, breathing proof that all the oft-repeated phrases about beauty being a trait of deeper dimensions are nothing but falsehood.

People who found her pictures online were unaware of her medical condition, a rare congenital disorder that prevents her from gaining any weight and expedites her aging process. They found her physical features queer to look at, hence the harsh judgment ensued. She was only 17-years-old back then and had suffered alienating behaviour at the hands of the society. To her, beauty was what she saw on glossy magazine covers not what she saw reflecting in the mirrors or in other people’s eyes. Growing up with this disability was already an unimaginable tribulation for her but then one day, she hit rock bottom.

She came across a video on YouTube that called her the ‘ugliest woman on earth’. When she recalls this moment in her life, even today after years have passed and things have considerably improved for her, her eyes well up with tears. The public reaction to the video and her appearance was the sorry reflection of what truly crosses our minds when we see someone like Velasquez. The anonymity of social media websites provide people with the license to voice out even the most outrageous thoughts. Hiding behind pseudonyms, they lash out.

Velasquez was not discouraged, however, she bravely encountered these naysayers after her teachers encouraged her to speak about her experiences in front of her school fellows for the first time. She discovered that her words had a deeply profound impact on the listeners. She decided to become a motivational speaker.

Today, Velasquez is 28-years-old and has authored four books. She regularly speaks at different public events and has her own YouTube channel where she has more followers than the number of ‘despicable’ human beings who had commented negatively about her appearance. She is spearheading campaigns of different brands against bullying and cyber-bullying in particular. She speaks to teenagers, appealing to their impressionable sensibilities to urge them to stand up to such vile acts of bullying. She also reaches out to the bullies themselves, attempting to cajole them to shun this behaviour which cements bad habits in them, leading to their transformation into abusive men and women with no regard for human dignity.

Velasquez’s story while being quite inspiring also reflects upon the collective cognition of the human race. Had Velasquez been afflicted with a disease that did not affect her appearance but was life-threatening in nature, she would have faced no resistance or backlash. People who dubbed her ‘ugly’ did not bother to look beyond her appearance at the natural impairment that made her who she was. She was instantly singled out for her looks which is suggestive of our collective obsession with appearances.

People like Velasquez are very important because they stand out as the thorns in the pretentious nature of human interaction. They are the writing on the wall, inked in permanence, forever questioning our notions. They are the question marks that punctuate our literature of hypocrisy. They are the portraits that adorn our halls of ‘shame’. There is no hiding from them. They are the brave ones, the bold and the beautiful of our world, while we with clear skin and attractive features desperately try to mask our ugly souls and selfish hearts. Hence, the title of the ‘ugliest’ species on earth goes to… us.

Fatima Raza

Fatima Raza

The author is a Biosciences graduate and a student of MPhil International Relations. She aspires to be an accomplished writer someday.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.