The first thing Nick Vujicic says to most people he meets is “come give me a hug!” And it’s not because he’s a handsy kinda guy. It’s quite the opposite, actually.

The motivational speaker, who has given over 2,000 talks in six continents, was born with tetra-amelia syndrome. He was born without any limbs.

So, probably to avoid any awkward non-handshake moments, the second after we were introduced during our exclusive interview, he gestured with his head for us to come over and bellowed enthusiastically – come give me a hug!

Despite having hugged and inspired countless people the world over since he was 19, Vujicic (now 30) is in Malaysia this week with a fresh message – stop bullying.

Nick Vujicic signing a book for a young fan during the Q&A session of his ‘Up Close & Personal with Nick Vujicic’ talk in PJ Hilton, Selangor.

During the “Up Close & Personal with Nick Vujicic” conference (organised by StART Society and supported by R.AGE) at PJ Hilton, Selangor on Wednesday, he told the intimate crowd of 500 not only about his personal struggles growing up, but about the importance of hope, of knowing your true worth, and learning to shut out irrational fears and doubts planted by others.

“Bullying is definitely an issue around the world and with cyberbullying, it gets worse due to the ability to tease someone without being caught,” said Vujicic, who has active Facebook and Twitter accounts.

As a child, Vujicic was subjected to horrible verbal abuse. He considered ending his life when he was 10, but eventually recovered to find his true calling in life to be a motivational speaker (more on that later).

“Bullies bring you down but friends build you up. You can choose to be either one,” he said. “Even parents can be bullies!”

Born to Serbian parents in Australia, Vujicic said he was under immense pressure to excel in school.

“My parents didn’t know how to love and encourage, and when you expect them to congratulate you, they just go ‘okay, now work harder’!” he said, emphasising the importance of a happy family. “It’s worse to have a broken home, than to have no arms and no legs.”

Vujicic himself became a father for the first time earlier this year. He married his fiance Kanae Miyahara last year, and the couple made a sling around Vujicic’s neck so he’d be able to hold his son.

“He’s getting big now!” he said, beaming proudly. “He’s almost my height, so I can’t hold him in the sling any more. But what I’ve always said is when I hug someone, how long and how tight the hug is depends on the other person. I want my son to grow up knowing that I am his friend, so he will want to hug me instead.

In line with Vujicic’s message against bullying, official event media partners R.AGE also gave audiences a preview of its R.AGE Against Bullying ( campaign.

Local R&B artiste Liang premiered the music video for his anti-bullying track Keep On Keepin’ On, which features a message from Vujicic as well as appearances from Red FM deejay and R.AGE Against Bullying ambassador JJ and local YouTube celebrity Ho Ming Han.

Many in the audience were in tears by the end of Vujicic’s talk, but there were also large doses of his legendary self-deprecating humour.

“I love golfing, swimming, fishing, scuba diving … I even tried skydiving once. My knees were shaking!” he said.

The event’s guest of honour, Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim, said she hoped to be able to “clone” Vujicic, so he could help more struggling children around the country.

“When he started talking, I was feeling this hope, this ray of sunshine. If all our young boys and girls can be brought together to hear him speak, I think we would have a much better world,” she said.

Vujicic also mentioned a statistic saying over 80% of Malaysian teenagers have experienced some form of bullying.

During a press conference with Vujicic after the event, Rohani said the Ministry has already set up a “consultative council for children” where they hope to hear from the children themselves about such issues.

 Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim (left) said if all our children could listen to Nick Vujicic's talks, the world would be a better place.

Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim (left) said if all our children could listen to Nick Vujicic’s talks, the world would be a better place.

“Yes, there have been spates of bullying, but it’s because (the bullies) have no confidence themselves. They want to feel ‘super’, so they start bullying others. It’s just to hide the limitations they feel.

“These are the kind of people who need help. But they must take that first step to get help – and that step could be listening to Nick,” she said.

Up Close & Personal with Nick Vujicic was organised by StART Society ( and supported by R.AGE. The full video of Vujicic’s talk in Malaysia will be uploaded on the R.AGE YouTube channel (

Tell us what you think!

Go top