For Delaware teen Lizzy Howell, dancing is her one true escape.
When she was in preschool, she wanted to fit in with the other girls and begged her mom to put her in dance class. Although she signed up for other activities like soccer and swimming, dance was the only one that stuck.
Dancing helps Lizzy get through hard times, like those she experiences with her disability. She has pseudotumor cerebri, a condition which causes excess fluid around the brain. She went blind for two full minutes before she was diagnosed and often suffers from incapacitating headaches— but all of that goes away when she starts to dance.
In the years that Lizzy’s been dancing, she’s often been bullied because of her weight.
In Jordan Matter’s Unstoppable video, she says:
“I’ve been bullied in dance since I was six. It still happens when I go to conventions.”
“I had one girl deliberately step on my foot with a tap shoe.”
For Lizzy, the bullying doesn’t stop with the students, however. Throughout her life, she’s been criticized and discriminated against by dance teachers who say she needs to lose weight. In an interview with Dia & Co, she recalled:
“A teacher at the time pulled me and my aunt aside and said that I needed to lose weight if I wanted to get better parts in the Nutcracker.”
Although people told Lizzy she’d never be good at dancing, she didn’t let the haters keep her down.
“Moving past [the criticism] was hard,” she told PEOPLE.
“I just have to remember why I stick with [ballet]. I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Lizzy currently practices tap and ballet twice a week, on top of classes for contemporary, lyrical, modern, and jazz. To keep her family updated on her progress, she started posting videos to her Instagram account. Little did she know, however, she was about to go completely viral.
Last year, Lizzy shared a video which shows her performing a fouetté. People were in awe of the way she could move, and the footage spread like wildfire.
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“I didn’t really understand why everyone thought it was so special,” she told POPSUGAR. “That’s just something I do all the time. I didn’t post it to go viral or share my story.” But since becoming an online sensation, Lizzy’s credited with shattering stereotypes about “the dancer body”. Lizzy was proud to participate in the Instagram #CaptureConfidence campaign and is also a spokesperson for “Dancers With Disabilities”.
Since going viral, she’s become a source of inspiration to many.
Comments on Jason Matter’s video read:
“My mom told me people are shining stars and every one comes in different shapes and sizes. Your talent is what makes you beautiful. You have a great body.”
“I saw this and realized I needed to stand up for myself and never stop being me. I am really moved by this video.”
“I love her! She’s beautiful, extremely talented, strong, determined, dedicated. Just an incredible young woman. Keep doing what you’re doing. I hope you reach all your dreams.”
Hear her inspiring story below.
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