Rosie Mercado isn’t letting the haters get her down.
The model has lost 250 lbs. thanks to a gastric sleeve procedure, skin removal surgery, and a commitment to diet and exercise – and while she feels great about her body, not all of her fans feel the same way.
“I recently lost 250 lbs. and have received an overwhelming response of love, support and kind words from around the world and I am grateful for that, but with the positive comes a little bit of negative, and I want to take the time to acknowledge a message that really stood out and made me think,” Mercado says in a video she shared exclusively with PEOPLE.
Before and after… Thankful for all the love and support around the world. Thanks for sharing my story and for the messages. The importance is to make choices that go with your values and out of self love….I am much more than my size! I am a proud Latina who wants to inspire and contribute …. I want to make a difference in this world and it starts with taking responsibilty for my life ❤️️ #latina #strength #faith #inspire
“This message was, ‘Go find a bridge, jump off and kill yourself,’ because I had lost weight,” she says.
Mercado – who used to weigh 410 lbs. – says the message was from a self-proclaimed fat activist who was angry at her for losing weight.
“She used to support my work when I was heavier, and her message was that I betrayed her,” she explains. “She related to me because I was the only model modeling at a really big size. When I lost all the weight she said I was a shame to the fat community, that she wouldn’t believe I would let all my fans down and that I sold out, that I should have stayed at my obese weight and represent everybody who’s not being represented.”
Instead of letting the harsh words bother her, Mercado is responding to her critic in a video message.
“I wanted to take the time to invite you to come join me at a beautiful bridge, and I want to invite you to come see it from my perspective, because the view from here is beautiful and amazing,” she says to her online bully. “If you choose to stay down there and expect a splash, just know that the only thing you’ll see is a shadow of me jumping and taking flight because the only way I am going is up.”
Mercado says while most of the feedback she gets is positive, she does have to deal with online haters.
“There are a lot of online bullies who get so comfortable behind a computer,” she says. “I’m thick-skinned because I’ve been plus-size modeling when I was bigger at 410 lbs. and now when I’m smaller. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t – but now I’m happier.”