U Alumni Use Research-Based Nonprofit to ‘Redefine Beauty’

By Cara MacDonald

University of Utah alumni Lexie and Lindsay Kite have established a nonprofit to foster a positive body image for women called Beauty Redefined — which aligned with their respective masters and doctoral studies.

Lexie and Lindsay are 31-year-old twin sisters, both of whom obtained undergraduate degrees in journalism from Utah State University (USU) and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Utah in communication. The pair established Beauty Redefined during their master’s and doctoral research in 2009. It is a grassroots effort to help women become aware of and reject harmful messages about their body, worth and potential through media literacy.

“Today, Beauty Redefined represents their work to help girls and women redefine the meaning and value of beauty in their lives through online education, social media activism and through regular speaking engagements for thousands of people of all ages in both secular and religious settings,” beautyredefined.org stated. “Lexie and Lindsay regularly have speaking engagements at universities, high schools, church congregations and community organizations.”

Lexie attributed the foundation of the organization to a class in media literacy both she and her sister took during their freshmen year at USU. The course focused on how media messages are constructed and the effect they can have.

“As a young woman, I was sitting in that class, listening to my professor talk about how women feel terrible about themselves and are super fixated on their appearances because these are the messages we’ve grown up with,” Lexie said. “I felt a strong sense of truth in what the professor was saying — it felt very important. So later I went home to my dorm room and talked to Lindsay, who was in a different section of the class and felt the same way. We had this profound experience of feeling a real compelling truth in that lesson. I feel like I have been very impacted by these constructed ideals, despite how good I’ve had it. Deep down, myself and my friends were all fixated on our physical appearances rather than our mental health and sense of wellbeing.”

At that point, the sisters were not sure how to spread the message of media literacy, so they decided to continue their education and pursue master’s degrees in communication at the U. During this period, they created a blog about media literacy, which they published their research papers on. The sisters continued this effort as they worked toward their doctorate degrees.

“We didn’t realize that people were starving for this information,” Lexie said. “When we started, people weren’t talking very much about body image, so it was new and interesting. We have tried to make Beauty Redefined a different, more empowering voice in the field. We are doing something that is research driven and that we know changes lives.”

Lexie feels that Beauty Redefined takes a unique approach to improving women’s self-esteem that creates longer lasting positivity.

“Most organizations trying to fix confidence issues push the message of, ‘You are so beautiful just the way you are,’ and that message feels good — for a second,” Lexie said. “It’s fleeting. If your confidence comes from how you feel or how you look or how you feel others see you, then that also comes from an unhealthy place. Beauty Redefined is here to say, ‘Sure you’re beautiful, but you’re more than beautiful.’ I’m here to get the conversation away from beauty because you’re here to do more than decorate the world. We have got to do more and be more.”

Beauty Redefined goes for a positive self image mindset rather than a body image mindset, trying to get girls and women to focus on themselves as a whole rather than just their physical appearance. Lindsay and Lexie have advocated for what they call “Body Image Resilience,” which can be practiced by distancing oneself from society’s opinions through social media fasting, taking occasional three-day cleanses from social networking and through trying to change the way people use language to express value in others. They advocate specifically for a reframing of compliments away from commending people’s looks and instead praising their other attributes.

Lindsay recently gave a TED Talk about Beauty Redefined’s message, and the duo have plans to continue to develop the project this year.

“We do regular live speaking events, often at universities around the United States,” Lexie said. “Speaking events are primarily how we get the word out. We plan to do more of that this year. We also try to do a lot of online, social media advocacy and this year we’d like to start a podcast series about positive body image.”

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