MEXICO CITY — At 49 years outdated and beneath 5 ft tall, Martha Izquierdo doesn’t precisely match the mildew of a TikTok influencer. However having survived sexual abuse, kidnapping, two bouts with most cancers and two coronary heart assaults, conquering social media was virtually a cinch for this Mexican journalist.
Ms. Izquierdo, who lives in a small city in southern Oaxaca state,has amassed greater than 600,000 followers on the social media platform, together with her movies accumulating some 24 million likes.
What’s the message that has made her so common in a time of pandemic and in a rustic experiencing document ranges of violence?
“I began speaking about points that needed to do with seeing life in a constructive manner,” Ms. Izquierdo stated. “Confronting your fears, making folks perceive that every considered one of us is exclusive, irreplaceable.”
In a latest video typical of her content material, Ms. Izquierdo saunters as much as the digital camera in a easy black T-shirt and floral pants. “In the present day’s outfit is confidence,” she says. “So that you don’t cease believing in your self.”
In one other video, this one with greater than 300,000 views, she rushes out of her home on her solution to work.
“I’m operating late, however all the time with the most effective angle to confront the each day,” she says. “How did you all get up — did you give your self your dose of affection?”
An award-winning journalist with many years of reporting expertise, Ms. Izquierdo is comparatively new to social media stardom. Because the pandemic started its assault on Mexico in 2020, she determined to open a TikTok account, the place she goes by @marthaizquierdooficial.
“We had been petrified of going exterior, petrified of dying,” she stated in a latest interview. “I believe being weak made lots of people sit down and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to replicate on life and what we’ve been doing unsuitable.’ And that’s the place I confirmed up.”
In Might, Ms. Izquierdo posted a video of herself dressed up as Surprise Lady to rejoice being in remission from most cancers. The video went viral, and shortly Ms. Izquierdo started gaining legions of followers.
“I might dance, I might costume up, I might put on costumes,” she stated. “I’m not a personality — that individual on TikTok is actually me. And I’m really even a little bit crazier.”
In a rustic the place the pandemic has wrought a devastating toll on public well being and the financial system, Ms. Izquierdo gives her followers a dose of pure delight. And in a digital period the place all the pieces is photoshopped glamour, Ms. Izquierdo’s very ordinariness, whether or not exercising, driving to work or dancing to cumbia music in her again yard, has made her extraordinary.
Her colourful outfits are a part of her enchantment, from conventional Oaxacan attire to bikinis for the seashore — the lengthy scar from most cancers surgical procedure that slices throughout her stomach proudly on show. However Ms. Izquierdo’s model isn’t a lot couture as confidence.
“If it’s a must to begin over, begin over,” she stated in a single clip. “That’s what life is all about — by no means giving up.”
Cristina Méndez Sánchez, who found Ms. Izquierdo’s movies a number of months in the past, has suffered from melancholy and weight problems since her accomplice died 15 years in the past. She quickly grew to become an enormous fan.
“I like her, I need to be like her,” stated Ms. Méndez, 49. “That lady certain is gutsy!”
Being an icon of affirmation didn’t come naturally to Ms. Izquierdo, who needed to undergo among the most painful moments of her life earlier than she might faucet into the exuberance that has made her a social media star.
Born within the Gulf of Mexico-bordering state of Veracruz to an accountant father and a homemaker mom, she knew from a younger age she wished to be a journalist.
“Once they requested me: ‘What do you need to be while you develop up?’ I stated, ‘A scientist, a singer or a journalist,” Ms. Izquierdo recalled. “However since God didn’t give me the I.Q. of Einstein or the voice of Pavarotti, I used to be caught with being a journalist.”
After her dad and mom divorced, Ms. Izquierdo was despatched to reside with members of her prolonged household in Oaxaca, the place she stated a male family member raped her quite a few instances starting when she was 9.
“I blocked it from my thoughts,” she stated.
It was solely years later, after she had met her accomplice, that she correctly recalled what had occurred, and thru remedy, was in a position to confront the abuse — and even forgive her abuser.
“I can’t maintain any resentment or detrimental emotion in my coronary heart,” Ms. Izquierdo stated. “Life just isn’t meant to be lived with that.”
After graduating from highschool, Ms. Izquierdo moved again to Veracruz to check journalism and ultimately grew to become a nationwide correspondent for considered one of Mexico’s high newspapers, Reforma. She now works at an area radio station in Oaxaca, delivering information updates.
“She was a extremely acknowledged journalist,” stated Soledad Jarquín, a reporter who first met Ms. Izquierdo greater than 20 years in the past. “She had excellent connections with folks in energy, but in addition on a regular basis folks.”
As for a lot of reporters in Mexico, one of many world’s deadliest nations for journalists, reporting the information got here with immense dangers: Usually, her work concerned overlaying the cartel-fueled violence that has terrorized the nation for many years.
In 2007, three newspaper sellers in a metropolis close to the place she lived had been killed, she recounted, by the violent Zetas cartel, whose assassins had mistaken their victims for journalists. When Ms. Izquierdo went to cowl the killings, she obtained an ominous cellphone name saying she was subsequent.
Ms. Izquierdo drove residence, packed her suitcase and fled to Mexico Metropolis. Nevertheless it didn’t take lengthy till she was again within the area and again in peril.
In April 2013, whereas overlaying a battle between native landowners, she was surrounded and detained by armed males. It was solely when the military arrived that Ms. Izquierdo was launched.
Nonetheless, regardless of frequently confronting hazard on the job, Ms. Izquierdo stated her best problem in life got here when her accomplice of 18 years, who had been battling most cancers and kidney issues, lastly succumbed.
“I wished to kill myself as a result of I beloved him a lot that I ended loving myself,” she stated.
Then, in 2015, she was recognized with ovarian most cancers and given eight months to reside. Once more, she considered giving up.
However her family and friends satisfied her to maintain preventing. She underwent chemotherapy and a number of surgical procedures, leaving her physique scarred.
“I might cry in entrance of the mirror once I checked out myself as a result of my physique regarded mutilated,” Ms. Izquierdo stated. “I felt like Frankenstein.”
Ultimately she defeated the most cancers — however in 2017 it returned, this time in her abdomen. In February of that yr she had a coronary heart assault.
After surviving a second coronary heart assault months later, Ms. Izquierdo stated all the pieces modified. Whereas unconscious, Ms. Izquierdo stated she had a imaginative and prescient throughout which she heard her deceased accomplice’s voice telling her to go on dwelling.
“If I got here again to life it was for one goal,” she stated. “To maintain dwelling, to be joyful, and to assist different folks with my life expertise.”
It was that constructive angle that catapulted her to TikTok fame. However together with all of the followers got here the trolls, who referred to as her chubby or unattractive. At first, the detrimental feedback began attending to her; then, she determined to cease caring.
“After I was permitting myself to be affected by unfounded detrimental feedback, I stated to myself, ‘No — I like myself.”
Earlier than lengthy, the variety of detrimental feedback began dropping, at the same time as her followers elevated. Watching haters change their angle towards her, Ms. Izquierdo stated, is what she considers one of many best achievements of her TikTok presence. That, and the messages she receives from followers telling her the impact she’s had on their lives.
Just a few weeks in the past, a kind of followers, Ms. Méndez, summoned the braveness to contact her idol. The ensuing cellphone dialog, she stated, has turned her life round: She’s gone to see a specialist about dropping pounds and plans to start out figuring out.
“I need to get up dancing each morning like she does,” Ms. Méndez stated. “She’s a girl value her weight in gold.”
For Ms. Izquierdo, this sort of affect is the purpose of all her efforts.
“It’s all value it if I can change somebody who’s dealing with an issue,” she stated. “If I could make them smile.”