Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Lessons from Lizzie Velasquez, 23, “World’s Ugliest Woman”



She has been ridiculed, stared at in the street and called ‘the world’s ugliest woman’ by insensitive cyber bullies.

But, after years of misery and self doubt, Lizzie Velasquez says she can finally shrug off the hurtful comments about her looks as ‘just words’.

Miss Velasquez, from Austin, Texas, was born without adipose tissue – meaning she has no body fat and, despite eating up to 60 small meals a day, remains at a delicate 4.4stone (58lbs).

The rare condition still baffles doctors and is thought to affect just two other people worldwide.
Miss Velazquez has now written a second book about her struggle to be accepted and hopes it will help others in a similar position.

Lizzie Velasquez: With her family.


In Be Beautiful, Be You the 23-year-old college senior shares advice on being unique, how to make and keep good friends and how to deal with bullying and negativity.

Speaking to Dr Drew Pinsky on Tuesday night about her experiences, Miss Velasquez said when cyber bullies first started attacking her online it was hard.

She told Dr Drew: ‘I’m human… of course these things are going to hurt… (but) I’m not going to let those things define me.’

Eventually Miss Velasquez realised the people issuing the hurtful comments online were just cowards hiding behind a computer screen.

‘At the end of the day, these are just words,’ Miss Velasquez told Dr Drew. ‘If they are so proud, then they should show their face.’

When asked how she deals with being constantly stared at in the street Miss Velasquez said: ‘I’m starting to want to go up to these people and introduce myself or give them my card and say, “Hi, I’m Lizzie – maybe you should stop staring and start learning”.’

Miss Velasquez also revealed she does not have any desire to look like a beautiful celebrity.

She said: ‘I feel I’m really glad I don’t look like the celebrities out there who are beautiful, because there are a lot of stereotypes attached to that.

‘People think “she’s so pretty, she must be really dumb”. Since I don’t look like that it’s better because people can get to know the real me.’

Miss Velasquez was born four weeks prematurely weighing just 2lb 10oz. Doctors found there was minimal amniotic fluid protecting her in the womb.

‘They told us they had no idea how she could have survived,’ Miss Velasquez’s mother Rita, 45, a church secretary, said.

‘We had to buy dolls’ clothes from the toy store because baby clothes were too big.’ Doctors could not make a diagnosis so they prepared Miss Velasquez’s parents for the worst.

‘They told us she would never be able to walk, talk or have a normal life,’ said her mother, who has two other children with Miss Velasquez’s father Lupe – both children are of average height and weight.
Despite the grim prognosis Miss Velasquez’s brain, bones and internal organs developed normally but she was always very small.

At the age of two she was still only 15lbs – the same as the average five-month-old baby.
Born with two brown eyes, when Miss Velasquez was four the right began to cloud and change hue. Doctors then discovered she had gone blind in that eye.

‘They still don’t know why it happened but now I have one blue and one brown eye.’

Miss Velasquez’s case has fascinated doctors all over the world and she is part of a genetic study run by Professor Abhimanyu Garg at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Professor Garg and his team now believe Miss Velasquez may have a form of Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome (NPS), which causes accelerated ageing, fat loss from the face and body, and tissue degeneration. People with PRS often have triangular and prematurely aged faces with a pointy nose.
He said: ‘I am aware of a small number of people that have similar conditions to Lizzie but each case is slightly different.

‘We cannot predict what will happen to Lizzie in the future, as the medical community are yet to document older people with NPS.

‘However Lizzie is lucky to have healthy teeth, organs and bones so the outlook is good. We will continue to study her case and learn from her.’

Miss Velasquez doesn’t take medication but she relies on vitamin supplements and iron to stay healthy.  It is thought she should be able to conceive naturally without passing the condition to her children.

Where to be born in 2013?

Warren Buffett, probably the world’s most successful investor, has said that anything good that happened to him could be tracedback to the fact that he was born in the right country, the United States, at the right time (1930). A quarter of a century ago, when The World in 1988 light-heartedly ranked 50 countries according to where would be the best place to be born in 1988, Americaindeed came top. But which country will be the best for a baby born in 2013?


To answer this, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, has this time turned deadly serious. It earnestly attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.
 
Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy.


A forward-looking element comes into play, too. Although many of the drivers of the quality of life are slow-changing, for this ranking some variables, such as income per head, need to be forecast. We use the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030, which is roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.
Despite the global economic crisis, times have in certain respects never been so good. Output growth rates have been declining across the world, but income levels are at or near historic highs. Life expectancy continues to increase steadily and political freedoms have spread across the globe, most recently in north Africa and the Middle East. In other ways, however, the crisis has left a deep imprint—in the euro zone, but also elsewhere—particularly on unemployment and personal security. In doing so, it has eroded both family and community life.
What does all this, and likely developments in the years to come, mean for where a baby might be luckiest to be born in 2013? After crunching its numbers, the EIU has Switzerland comfortably in the top spot, with Australia second.
Small economies dominate the top ten. Half of these are European, but only one, the Netherlands, is from the euro zone. The Nordic countries shine, whereas the crisis-ridden south of Europe (Greece, Portugal and Spain) lags behind despite the advantage of a favourable climate. The largest European economies (Germany, France and Britain) do not do particularly well.

America, where babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation, languishes back in 16th place. Despite their economic dynamism, none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) scores impressively. Among the 80 countries covered, Nigeria comes last: it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013.

Boring is best

Quibblers will, of course, find more holes in all this than there are in a chunk of Swiss cheese. America was helped to the top spot back in 1988 by the inclusion in the ranking of a “philistine factor” (for cultural poverty) and a “yawn index” (the degree to which a country might, despite all its virtues, be irredeemably boring). Switzerland scored terribly on both counts. In the film “The Third Man”, Orson Welles’s character, the rogue Harry Lime, famously says that Italy for 30 years had war, terror and murder under the Borgias but in that time produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance; Switzerland had 500 years of peace and democracy—and produced the cuckoo clock.

However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times. A description of the methodology is available here: food for debate all the way from Lucerne to Lagos.
Laza Kekic: director, country forecasting services, Economist Intelligence Unit