Anti-Bullying Activist Lizzie Velasquez Asks Parents To Stop Using Her Face For Cruel TikTok Prank
Anti-bullying activist Lizzie Velasquez has condemned a new TikTok trend that sees parents trying to ‘scare’ their children with photos of her face.
The 31-year-old, from Austin, Texas, was born with Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, an extremely rare condition that inhibits her body from gaining body fat, among other symptoms.
Velasquez has bore the brunt of online toxicity for years, starting when a photo of her, aged 13, was branded ‘the world’s ugliest woman’. Now, she’s pleading with mums and dads to not pull the new prank on their kids, urging that ‘being kind to one another starts at home’.
In a video shared across her social media accounts, the motivational speaker said: ‘TikTok I need your help.’
She continued: ‘This trend where you are pretending to FaceTime someone who is either disabled or is a baby or just some crazy mugshot and you’re showing it to someone to get their reaction to saying, ‘Oh hey, talk to this person’ just to get a quick laugh, this is not funny. This is not a joke.’
During the video, you can see a separate clip of parent showing their child a picture of Velasquez, under the pretense that she’s his new teacher – sadly, he steps back in shock.
To this, Velasquez said:
He had a scared reaction on his face. If you are an adult who has a young human in your life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who does not look like them is okay. Please, everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home.
The prank originated using a photo of anyone, someone they didn’t know – however, when Velasquez saw the TikTok trend for the first time ‘I knew in my gut my photo was going to be used… after dealing with things like this for a while now, I can sense when this might happen’.
She explained to Yahoo Life that she ‘couldn’t sleep’ when she first saw her photo being used in the prank. ‘All that kept running through my mind was the innocent people used in these videos. Whether their photo is photoshopped to look exaggerated or whether they are babies who were born uniquely different, nobody has the right to use that in the form of humour,’ she said.
The video posted to Twitter has amassed more than 11.4 million views at the time of writing. ‘When things like this are brought to my attention my number one concern is how can I make this a teaching moment. How can I best use my platform for good,’ she said.
While TikTok has yet to publicly respond to Velasquez’s requests, she added: ‘I take great responsibility in the fact that now is the time time to do all I can to speak up for those who might not have a voice or for those who don’t know how to use theirs.’
If you’ve been affected by bullying and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Bullying UK (part of Family Lives) on 0808 800 2222. The helpline service is open 9am–9pm Monday to Friday and 10am–3pm Saturday and Sunday.
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