Lizzy Howell has no time for haters — she’s too busy spinning circles around them.
Howell, a 15-year-old dancer from Delaware, recently made waves when a short video of her doing fouettés in dance class began to circulate online. The clip was captivating, not only because Howell is incredibly talented, but because many believed that it promoted the important notion of diversity in the devastatingly traditional practice of ballet.
Lizzy had no idea that the fouetté video would gain so much traction when she shared it to her Instagram, but she now has 40,000 followers who are rooting for her success in all of her dancing endeavors.
Howell’s talent is well-earned: the teenager has been practicing dance since she was in preschool. Howell says that her dance practice has helped her through some of the roughest moments in her life. According to BuzzFeed, Howell has experienced “periods of anxiety” and “struggles because of a pseudotumor cerebri, an excess of fluid around the brain.”
Thanks to the popularity of her video, Howell has now been invited to take on the role of ambassador for a dancers-with-disabilities awareness campaign.
“Being an overweight dancer has come with its struggles,” Lizzy writes in the caption of one of her Instagram photos. “I have been told numerous times by teachers that I will get nowhere in the dance world if I do not lose this weight. Over the years, I have learned not to care what people think! If people want to tear you down, let them and show them that you can do it!”
Lizzy tells BuzzFeed that, although some of her fans refer to her as “plus-size,” she doesn’t appreciate this particular distinction. “If I can do everything that anyone else can, why should I be in a separate category?”
All in all, though, Lizzy seems right at home with her newfound internet celebrity, and is pleased about the possibility of her dancing serving as an inspiration for others.
“I’m very happy that someone has discovered me,” she continues. “It’s a whole new thing for people where I live.”