HH: Tell us about Beauty Redefined. What was your inspiration? How have you evolved?
BR: We, Lindsay and Lexie Kite (28-year-old identical twins in Salt Lake City, Utah) started Beauty Redefined in 2009 during our master’s programs as a way for us to share our research with the public, since we felt the urgency and necessity of the work we were doing regarding media and body image. It went from a basic blog and a one-hour visual presentation we developed and co-authored with our master’s theses and projects, and has evolved into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Beauty Redefined Foundation, which we have developed while obtaining our doctorates from the University of Utah (finished in ’13!). Beauty Redefined is dedicated to promoting positive body image for girls and women everywhere through media literacy, health literacy, and body image resilience. We do this through our website, beautyredefined.org; our Facebook page, and through regular speaking engagements, from universities and high schools to professional conferences and church congregations for all ages.The power of understanding media’s role in keeping individuals from realizing their fullest potential is very real, and we began realizing it our freshman year of college in a required class on media analysis for journalists at Utah State University. We learned about the way women are presented in media and how that affects our perceptions of ourselves and our realities. We took the same class at different times of the day, and on the first day of class, we both felt the very twin-like experience of feeling this heart-pounding, self-actualizing feeling that what we were hearing was true and that we might have a special work to do in getting this truth out to the world. Ten years of college later, we continue to believe in the power of females to do and live and be outside of the confines of an objectifying culture that sells them so short of their potential, and we run Beauty Redefined to teach and remind women them of their value and power.
HH: Tell us a little about yourself outside of this.
BR: We are 28-year-old identical twins from Idaho Falls, ID, and living in Salt Lake City, UT. We both have BSs, MSs, and PhDs in the study of media and body image, which has been our passion for more than a decade now! When we’re not researching, blogging, running our multiple social media platforms, or speaking to audiences across the country, we both love to swim, shop for bargain clothes and jewelry, watch movies with our friends and family, take little vacations, and talk endlessly about body image.
HH: What do you wish all women knew about themselves?
BR: We want women to know a few important messages that we actively promote in everything we do, including printing these slogans on sticky notes people buy to slap on degrading public media or places they or others could see for a happy reminder! Here are our most important messages for girls and women everywhere:
You are capable of much more than looking hot.
Your reflection does not define your worth.
Women are more than just bodies. When we learn to see more than just bodies, we can be more than just bodies.
Everything we do revolves around the idea that women are more than objects to be adorned, admired, and judged. Most media messages push the opposite message – that our worth, health, desirability, and happiness is dependent upon our appearances, and whether or not we fit very narrowly defined ideals of beautiful. When women start to see through those messages, and recognize the profit-driven, unfulfilling nature of such lies, they are able to continuously resist messages that are harmful and empower themselves and others to make more positive choices in every aspect of their lives.
Matt Clayton Photography
HH: Do you think a positive media change is taking place only online?
BR: No. As more people become informed and aware of the harms perpetuated by media, those people are better equipped to make responsible and positive decisions for future media. We do occasionally see molds being broken in film and TV, and occasionally in magazines (like HaveHeart!), and we’re incredibly happy about those improvements. We’ve seen lots of examples of media being forced to change or respond to legitimate criticism that started online, so the online side of this fight is a powerful force that we’re grateful to be a part of. Though we’re very optimistic about the future, we aren’t necessarily optimistic about the way most media will portray and represent women, especially in terms of body image. There are multiple multi-billion-dollar industries that depend on women viewing themselves as objects, feeling terrible about their appearances, and seeking external means to “improve” their appearances. These industries are growing more powerful every day, and the beauty ideals we see constantly replicated in for-profit media are very unlikely to change. Those ideals must be unattainable in order to drive that level of profit. If anyone reached those ideals and felt satisfied, they’d go out of business! We are focused on changing people’s perceptions, who then affect change in their own circles of influence – not changing media.
HH: Tell us about the “Group Leader” process and why it’s important.
BR: Girls and women have more influence than they realize. There are more people watching them than they will likely ever know. When one girl or woman catches the spark of why positive body image is so important, and what it means to be more than just an object, she can spark powerful change among her circle of influence. That’s why we started the Group Leader program, which we sell as a package of both teaching materials and Beauty Redefined merchandise for people to use in their own families and communities. We desperately wish we could speak in person to everyone who is interested in our work, but since we can’t do that, we try to make our work available to people who want to share it in organized, meaningful ways. We hope to have Group Leaders all over the world! Matt Clayton Photography
HH: What’s the craziest response to an article you’ve ever gotten?
BR: The craziest responses come when we do anything in the public – rarely from work we do on our own site, but regularly from news interviews or public profiles on us. In general, the most ridiculous responses revolve around just one ironic thing: our looks. They fall into two categories: “You’re just ugly and jealous of beautiful women” and “You’re too pretty to know what it feels like to be ashamed of your body. What could you possibly know?” They sound like two totally different criticisms, but we recognize they are the exact same thing: people reducing us to our appearances and dismissing our words. We learned this pretty quickly and, thankfully, see it as fuel for the necessity of our cause, rather than a stumbling block!
HH: Positive body image campaigns tend to bring out a lot of negative people online. How do you combat this?
BR: We really try our best to fight negative with positive. We ignore the trolls or flamers that are just out to insult or fight (and have no problem deleting and blocking them), but we try to find common ground with angry or confused people that, while negative, may be able to calm down enough to see through the rage and start somewhere we both agree. We’ve always taken a stance of being over-the-top nice, even when people are rude, but we are also careful to never let our work get misrepresented or torn down in ways that could mislead others. We’ve found this strategy of ultra-niceness to be a great one. People learn pretty quickly that we don’t provide great forums for fighting, and that we don’t feed the trolls. We’ve seen lots of really dramatic turnarounds in individuals that seemed fully convinced we were going to ruin the world, and then were able to find common ground with us once we got the blind rage and confusion out of the way. What we do isn’t really all that controversial, but people come into conversations about body image with strong emotions and preconceived notions that need to be addressed right up front. Matt Clayton Photography
HH: What’s your favorite blog post this far? (You’ve got an amazing, gutsy, truth-telling blog!)
BR: Wow, that’s a hard question! And one we’ve never been asked! I think we have two favorites. I’m especially proud of our Physically Photoshopping post because it’s a novel, powerful idea that we have never seen anyone else address in this way. Everyone always wants to talk about digital Photoshop, but we do things to our appearances every day to manipulate reality and send messages to others about what it means to look like a woman in this culture. It’s something that applies to everyone and can be very eye-opening and powerful. The other one I’m a big fan of is our “Healthy Redefined” series, (especially Part 2 ), because it represents some significant research I (Lindsay) did over several years, and is a really empowering way to look at health in a world that has convinced us “health” is out of reach for most of us. That research on the ways we measure and define health has proved to be a powerful motivator for people who have only measured their health on the scale or in their jeans, which is an ineffective and objectifying way to think about health.
HH: Tell us about your sticky note campaign.
BR: Our most popular fundraiser tool is our sticky notes! We’ve sold pads of our original designs on sticky notes to people worldwide since 2011. They started as a way for us to spread the images from our 2011 billboard campaign with people who couldn’t see our billboards (throughout UT and one in PA!) in person. People have stuck these uplifting notes everywhere you can think of to remind themselves and others that women are more than objects to be ogled, judged and fixed. We use these sticky notes to talk back to degrading media in public or to talk back to those negative voices in our heads that come from years of internalizing messages about our worth being equal to our beauty. From public advertisements and store magazine stands to locker doors and bathroom mirrors, we are SO happy these messages are making the rounds!
HH: If you weren’t running Beauty Redefined, what would you both be doing?
BR: Wow, another hard question. Neither of us can imagine doing anything else! We both started college in journalism, and both worked as feature writers for a couple of years, which was great, but just not quite awesome enough. Weirdly, we’ve both always enjoyed public speaking, so I think we would both be doing something in the public eye even if BR wasn’t around. Matt Clayton Photography
HH: Do either of you have children? If so, how has Beauty Redefined shaped how you’ll raise them?
BR: Neither of us have children, but we both hope to in the future. We know Beauty Redefined will play a large role in how they are raised – from the kinds of media they’ll be exposed to, to the ways we talk about our own and others’ bodies, and how we take care of ourselves in ways that prioritize internal health over external appearance ideals.
HH: Do you think that in order for a positive body image movement to be successful, it has to have elements of shock and awe? (Semi nude photographs with signs over their bodies saying LOVE MY BODY, or something similar).
BR: As you can probably surmise from the content we produce, we do not believe shock and awe is necessary! We can guarantee you that you will never catch either of us in a nude photo shoot or even sharing links to things that focus on those means for attracting attention! While we recognize the value of celebrating bodies that look different from the idealized, altered, uniform images we see everywhere in mainstream media, we do not take that route because we are invested in moving the conversation about body image beyond the appearance of bodies. We do our best to create and share content that you wouldn’t be embarrassed for your grandparents, your kids, or your boss to see you reading. We avoid obscenities, graphic images, and anything else that could alienate younger or more conservative audiences, and we’ve been fairly successful in doing so. We plan to continue that strategy!
HH: Where do you see Beauty Redefined going/growing towards in the future?
BR: We plan to expand our reach to include more in-person speaking engagements, starting this year, since we have those PhDs out of the way! We also plan to write a book this year, and are debuting an online program for individuals seeking to improve their body image and increase their body image resilience – or the skills to thrive through difficult body-related experiences. We developed and tested the online program through our dissertations and are so excited for anyone across the world to have the chance to access it. We would love to expand through chapters led by Beauty Redefined Group Leaders throughout the world.We live in a world of possibility and passion. Lindsay and Lexie are a combination of exactly that. Here’s to these two women who are determined to show everyone that beauty is so much more. Here’s to their courage, their lessons, and their belief in us. But what, exactly is their defining factor? I guess you could say that they are beauty, redefined. -HH