DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


Abstract: This collaborative essay, written by Brenda Almaraz and I, explores the concept of self-identity and rhetorically analyzes two videos; "Girls Who Read" by Mark Gris and Lizzie Velasquez on "How Do You Define Yourself".  

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

When you look in the mirror what do you see? When someone looks at you what do they see? Now, when you look at magazines, commercials, or television shows, how are those people portrayed? In this day and age, the media has played a large part in telling everyone how the perfect person should act or look. The perfect women should be tall, but not too tall, skinny, but also have curves and be smart, but not too smart. The perfect man should be tall, dark and handsome. We have all heard these descriptions at least once in our lives, but we all know they are not realistic. Recently, we have had people who have been working to break through these barriers of being the “perfect person.” Public speaker Lizzie Velasquez and spoken word artist Mark Grist both try to deliver the same message using two different mediums. Lizzie Velasquez uses a speech, and Mark Grist uses spoken word to say that we should all create our own identity, define ourselves and that it is perfectly okay to be whoever you are because that what makes you amazing. Both of these people are very successful in delivering their message because of the different rhetorical techniques they use whether it be in their speech or their video. They use the repetition of a catch phrase to make sure the message stays lingering even days after they have connected with the audience. Using ethos they capture their audience, and then use different methods to keep them hooked. Without ethos, they would not have the audience they do to deliver the important message they have. Both Velasquez and Grist have opened the can of worms that is talking about how society negatively sees people who are different, and that is not entirely a bad thing.             


The Perfect Girl: A look Into Repetition and Ethos


“ What do you go for in a girl?” is a commonly asked question amongst many men. Many tend to answer with their favorite body part in women; in a way saying that all a woman is good for is her physical appearance. The spoken word artist, Mark Grist, takes a different position than most when it comes to this question in his piece, “Girls Who Read.” Grist used to be an English teacher but left the career to pursue his want to be a spoken word artist. Through the piece “Girls Who Read”, Grist tries to convince women everywhere that being intellectual is one of the most attractive things a woman can possess. He tells men that when looking for a girl to look beyond the physical appearance because that is not the most important trait a woman can possess. He tries to convince both men and women of this through his character, targeting his audience, using a video and constant repetition of his main message.   


Mark Grist is a very successful spoken word artist. He has been sold out for many live performances and has been on networks such as the BBC, MTV, and Channel 4. He has a recognizable face that many connect to and listen to, so he already has a fan base. Even before he was a spoken word artist he was an English teacher, so the words he says carry a lot of weight. Since becoming a spoken word artist, he has held workshops focusing on creative culture in schools, and the differences students have as positive things. Mark Grist is a reliable source and has people who will listen to what he has to say. When he decided to take a stand as to how the media portrays women there was a whole audience of people waiting to listen.


Although he does have a large fan base, his piece was focused on targeting young women and men. Thanks to the media’s portrayal of women in commercials and television show most young men look for women with the “ideal” body. As Grist says in his piece, men tend to look at a woman’s boobs or butt first when deciding whether to ask her out. He goes on to say that this is the wrong way to look at women. We know his message is targeting young men and women, because of the first setting in his video he is in a bar with young people drinking and having a conversation. Grist wants to tell his audience that a young, educated and determined women are amazing.  


The video as a whole is made to convince the audience that what Grist is saying is true. You have the main focus of the video being a girl Grist deems attractive; not because of the way she looks, but because she likes spending her time around books and reading. Never once in the video do you see this woman wearing revealing clothing, having abnormally huge boobs or a butt like you do in commercials. All you see is a normal everyday girl reading but by the end of the video you get the feeling that she is a perfect form of a woman. Not because of her appearance, but because you constantly see her reading. Throughout the whole video, Grist keeps repeating the phrase, “I like a girl who reads” to get his message across, before going on to list all the wonderful traits that come with a girl who reads. He does this, so even after a person shuts down his computer and goes on with their daily life they will remember that one phrase. With that one phrase stuck in the back of everyone’s head, Grist hopes that both men and women will see each other and themselves in a different light.


Mark Grist was extremely successful at delivering his message across. Many persuasive elements were put in one video in an effort to convince his audience that there is more to a woman than just her looks. This is a really important message to get across; especially to the young girls of today who feel that showing how smart they really are will result in a negative response from someone that they like. Grist tries to tell girls that being smart, challenging a man, and being an equal to men are wonderful traits to possess and he does it all in just under four minutes. Mark Grist highlights the importance of women accepting and embracing who they no matter the circumstance; we can think of no better example of Grist's proclamation than the motivational speaker, Lizzie Velasquez.


What Defines You


Lizzie Velasquez's courageous life as someone afflicted with a rare condition embodies Mark Grist’s definition of what it is to be a strong, independent, and educated woman. There are those that are exceptionally smarter, those that are born with abnormalities: an extra toe or finger, and all the other unique characteristics that contribute to who we are and our identity. It has never occurred to us that there are many ways that one can define themselves beside the generic race, ethnicity, sexuality and/or gender. In Lizzie Velasquez’s “How Do You Define Yourself” TEDxAustin Women speech, we learn about her experiences suffering from a unique and unknown disease that brought her frustration and sadness, yet also brought happiness and motivation. Overall, Velasquez makes one realize that there is more to oneself and that the concept of identity is far more complex than imagined.


Being the first child and born with a rare disease there was little hope for Lizzie to be able to talk, walk, and even a possibility that she would not be able to think on her own. Despite the odds, and with the love and support of her parents, Lizzie was capable of talking, walking, and even had the ability to think for herself. She talked more and more about when she was growing up, being bullied, and how that had a tremendous impact on her. Her story captivated the audience as they empathized with her and gave her some support on stage. As she shared her compelling story of her childhood: she was able to connect and engage with the audience through emotion and strategic use of her motivational speaking skills. 


Throughout Lizzie Velasquez's speech on "How Do You Define Yourself", the audience was able to understand that identity, or how you define yourself should not be constructed upon how others perceive you, but rather how you perceive yourself. She then questions the audience to engage them to think, and connect to the content of her speech from beginning to end. She was very interactive with the audience as she asked questions that had the audience laughing and making herself feel a part of the audience. In parts of her speech as she discusses being bullied she had some of the audience, including us, shed a couple of tears. Her soft voice and the fact that she embraces her vulnerability and her rare disease caused an emotional roller coaster. It was astonishing to learn that there are two individuals in the world, Lizzie being one, that doctors know of that are living with this rare disease with no name. Watching Lizzie as she paced slowly back and forth across the stage, and pointing out her conditions such as her blind eye enables us to trust what she says about how she feels and what she has witnessed. Lizzie has the ability to establish trust with the audience, a sufficient amount of emotion and her repetition of “how do you define yourself” to provide her audience with a well-rounded idea of identity.


Overall, Lizzie Velasquez was able to get the audience into thinking about the infinite ways that contribute to one's identity. As we witnessed the multiple times she made us think about defining ourselves we were quick to associate how we defined ourselves based on race, ethnicity and gender. We never thought about how we could be defined by an ability or skill we possess or a unique trait we inherited or developed. Through “How Do You Define Yourself” Lizzie Velasquez was able to get the audience into believing and looking far beyond the surface of an individual. She taught them how embracing the unique traits one possess could lead to a better definition of yourself, and even provide you with the motivation to move on and not let anything or anyone, even a bully, impede you from succeeding.


There are many aspects that define a human being: through phenotypes, genotypes, or can be more of a spiritual sense. Mark Grist’s “Girls Who Read” and Lizzie Velasquez’s “How Do You Define Yourself’ discuss the concept of identity, and how others identify you versus how you identify yourself. Through strategic use of repetition throughout their videos; Grist with “I want a girl who reads”, and Velasquez with “How do you define yourself” are both attempting to engage the audience and make them question not only how they view themselves but how they view others. There are a lot of stereotypes and prejudice ideas that are lingering throughout society that we agree with and allow to define us. There is more to an individual than Black, White, Latino, Asian, smart, dumb, sexy, ugly, fat or skinny. Identity is not what society thinks. Grist looks beyond the physical features of women and looks at them like intellectual individuals. Velasquez projects this idea through herself, suffering from a rare disease she embraces it and identifies herself from it: the important message both Grist and Velasquez inflict on their audience is to strive away and not allow society to identify you, but for you to define yourself and create your own identity.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.



Grist, M. (2013, November 17). Girls who read. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from



Jones, C. (December 1, 2010). The art and science of influence web content: what rhetoric really is. Retrieved on February 20, 2015 from



Velasquez, L. (2013, December 20). How do you define yourself Lizzie Velasquez at

TEDXxAustinWomen. Retrieved February 20, 2015 from



Wright, D.(May 14, 2012). Using the rhetorical triangle & rhetorical appeals.Retrieved February

20, 2015http://youtu.be/5ODwmSYb3Tw


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.