13-year-old Paris Harvey suffers from a condition that causes her to gain weight easily and makes it hard to lose it.
According to the Daily Mail, she was also born with hip dysplasia that left her with one leg shorter than the other. Because of this and because of pins that have been placed in her joints, Harvey walks with a limp.
Harvey has been bullied because of her weight and her limp — some of the kids she attends school with call her “fat” and make fun of her by saying she “walks like a penguin.”
The constant teasing has left her with confidence issues to the extent that going to the beach in a bathing suit was totally out of the question. She told the Daily Mail:
“I got bullied in the past and after a while you start to believe what people say. I became really insecure about how I looked. I can be eating the same food as the next person but I gain weight. It's not like I'm sitting at home all day eating [chips].”
She continued by saying that her hip condition makes it even more difficult to lose weight because it's not as easy for her to exercise:
“It's also hard for me to get around because of my hips and it is harder for me to make changes than it is for other people. But I felt like I shouldn't have to explain myself.”
However, that changed over the last holiday weekend when she went to the beach for the first time in three years. Harvey rocked a one-piece bathing suit while enjoying the warm sand and cool waters.
She even posted a few pictures on Twitter to commemorate the big moment:
Along with the photos, she wrote:
Omg so I faced my biggest fear today and went to the beach in a swimsuit.
And while the photos have been liked more than 335,000 times, the bullies she knew all too well started popping up on social media:
Some even claimed that supporting Harvey on her path to gaining more confidence is like supporting obesity:
Harvey read some of the comments, before realizing that she shouldn't be spending her time reading such hateful things:
“I thought, 'Why am I wasting my time on those?' I chose to focus on the support because hate is nothing compared to love.”
And the support most definitely outweighed the criticism. Harvey's idol, Fifth Harmony singer Ally Hernandez, along with Patricia Arquette and others came to her defense:
Harvey told the Daily Mail that as a result of her beach day, her confidence has been higher than ever before.
“I was worried someone would come up to me and stop me or stare at me but there was no response, people were just acting as they did before. I stayed like it for a few hours and I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. I was proud afterwards. It was quite an achievement.”
The 13-year-old said she hopes her pictures help other people learn to just “embrace who they are”:
“You shouldn't have to change yourself to make others feel comfortable around you. Focus on yourself. I'm not making myself a model but I wanted to show people that it doesn't matter what size you are — you are born into that body.”
Harvey has become an inspiration to hundreds of Twitter users and even her dad, who told the Daily Mail that he was “very proud” of his daughter.