THE MESSAGE AT ST. JAMES MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH CAME A DAY EARLY FOR A GROUP OF TEENAGE GIRLS.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTERISTICS ABOUT YOURSELF?
Olivia Crawford, a 7th grader, said, "My natural curls in my hair and my dimples."
"Eyelashes," replied another 7th grade, Lyrik Walker.
Amya Johnson, a 6th grade student, said, "I like my hair and my lips."
"Adults say things like, oh, you a little chubby, and that's where it starts...it's not acceptable because not everybody was meant to be a size six," said Markell Davidson, the "I'm Coming out Beautiful" conference organizer.
"Sometimes it just takes someone else to come in and say, 'I understand where you've been, I've been there,'" Davidson.
It's part of a three year old program called "Princess in Training."
"Markell...is also my mentor and she knows that I struggled with being bullied," said 17 year-old Brazia Payne.
She has been bullied since she was in Pre-K.
Brazia said, "First for my parents being an interracial couple and then second, for me being, larger than others, as we call 'fun-size.'"
She ended up moving schools and things changed.
"I decided I wasn't going to be hurt anymore, so I actually started to bully others," Payne said.
Groups like this are helping girls build back their confidence.
"It's been really hard to accept the skin I'm in," said Lizzie Velasquez.
She is a 23 year old Austinite.
Velasquez said, "The comments ranged from people saying; you should kill yourself, why don't you walk outside with a bag over your head because if somebody sees you, they're gonna go blind."
She's one of only three people in the world to have an undiagnosed syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight.
Lizzie said, "Some people saying; why didn't your parents abort you if you were going to be so ugly?"
Lizzie knows how it feels to be bullied, but she also knows how to overcome it...and that's what's really important.
"You can create your own definition of beauty," Velasquez said.
We asked the girls that same question again; what are your favorite characteristics about yourself?
"I am optimistic, headstrong," said Olivia.
Amya answered, "I'm outgoing."
Lyrik said, "I'm able to help people easily."
It's a lesson for children and adults; what's on the inside is what matters most.
This is the first time they've had this event and hope to make it an annual occurrence.