Before you share a meme, remember that there’s an actual person in that photo.
That’s the message motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez shared on Instagram after discovering that she unwillingly became the face of a body shaming meme.
“I’ve seen a ton of memes like this all over @facebook recently. I’m writing this post not as someone who is a victim but as someone who is using their voice,” Velasquez, 27, writes. “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.”
Velasquez has neonatal progeroid syndrome, a rare disease that affects her eyes, heart and bones and prevents her from adding weight to her 63-lb. frame. At just 17 years old, she found herself the subject of a cruel YouTube video that called her the “ugliest woman in the world,” and used that experience to become a YouTube star and motivational speaker.
She’s spreading a message of body positivity again in her response.
“No matter what we look like or what size we are, at the end of the day we are all human,” Velasquez continues. “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. Spread love not hurtful words via a screen.”
Velasquez, who was the focus of the 2015 documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, says her life goal is to spread kindness.
“I knew this is my purpose, this is what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life, because I like to think that I’m not only telling my story — I’m telling everyone’s story,” she said in the film.