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Disabled Influencer Offers Emotional Plea After Her Photo Was Used To Scare Kids On TikTok


All too often, social media brings out the very worst in us. And disabled activist and speaker Lizzie Velasquez is fighting back.

Recently a woman used a picture of Velasquez—whose facial appearance is affected by her disability—for a prank to scare her son, telling him it was his new teacher—an obviously ableist joke that uses Velasquez’s disability in a mocking way.

So, Velasquez took to TikTok and Twitter and put her motivational speaking skills to use in order to tell parents exactly how this kind of ableism affects her and other disabled people and why it needs to stop.

The video that used Velasquez’s photo is part of a new trend on TikTok.

The so-called “FaceTime prank” involves people using strange, frightening or funny photos on their phone screens and then telling someone else the photo is somebody who wants to speak to them on FaceTime.

Users then post the surprised reaction of the other participant.

Velasquez has a very rare congenital condition called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy which, among other symptoms, causes people to not retain body fat, especially in the face. This results in a prematurely aged look.

In her video, Velasquez pleaded with people—especially parents—to stop the prank.

“If you are an adult who has a young human in his life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn’t look like them is ok.”

“Everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home. This is not ok.”

“This is a trend that needs to stop. We are human and we have feelings. Please keep that in mind.”

On Twitter, many people were angry about the prank—and emphatically on Velasquez’s side.


Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to think about who is the butt of the jokes we make on social media.

John Sundholm

Written by John Sundholm

John Sundholm is a writer, video producer and performer originally from Michigan, and is one of those people who says he "lived in London for a while" even though it was only six weeks for study abroad. He made Ellen DeGeneres laugh once so you should probably follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Medium, where he does a lot of yelling under the name @JohntheCraptist.