Dr. Lexie Kite, co-founder and co-director of the Beauty Redefined Foundation, has dedicated her life to helping girls and women recognize, reject and resist harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like.
Lexie and her identical twin sister Lindsay both have PhDs (wowza!) in the study of media and body image, and together have helped build a movement promoting body positivity and fighting back against harmful media surrounding women’s bodies. Read on to hear more about Dr. Kite and her amazing work!
Much of your work highlights the harmful messages the media feeds women about their bodies. How do you attempt to dismantle these narratives through your work?
Beauty Redefined is our academic and personal passion. We really feel like it is our life’s mission to help people recognize and reject the harmful cultural messages that keep us fixated on ourselves and all women as merely bodies to decorate the world.
We know women are capable of much more than being looked at, despite what so many media and cultural messages would have us believe. While many well-intentioned speakers and activists promote positive body image from the basis of helping women realize and embrace their beauty, we take a different approach that has proved successful in our research.
At Beauty Redefined, we assert that having positive body image isn’t believing you are beautiful. Instead, it is having a positive perception of your body overall. So many times we confuse “my body” with “how my body looks,” and think of ourselves from an outside perspective, also known as self-objectification. Through both research and personal experiences, our online education, social media activism and speaking engagements illustrate the vital point that your body is far more important and powerful as an instrument for your use than it is as an ornament to admire. Self-esteem and confidence are crucial, but they are NOT dependent on what you look like — or what you think you look like.
We emphasize that getting past the obsession with the outsides of our bodies is key to developing a positive perception of our own bodies, which is the definition of positive body image. We believe—and have confirmed through our research and the amazing testimonies of so many Beauty Redefined fans—that the key to overcoming body anxiety and looks-based obsession is through body image resilience, or the ability to overcome hard things not just in spite of your pain, but *because* of your pain. That pain opens your eyes to your power, your influence, your understanding, and allows you the opportunity to change the world. We teach the strategies to get to body image resilience in all that we do!
Do you have a favorite piece of advice to give women regarding body positivity?
Our research points to one particularly awesome way to experience real empowerment, decrease self-consciousness, and embrace your body as your own—not as a decoration for everyone else to gawk at.
It is through the power of your body…But not the way the rest of the world tells you your body is powerful.
We are constantly sold the lie that makeup, weight loss, new clothes, cosmetic surgery, etc., are empowering for women. The thing is, they’re not. We’re confusing “empowerment” with “feeling beautiful” or, more specifically, “feeling like other people think we look good.”
Empowerment has to be so much more dynamic and encompassing than that. Power cannot be minimized to something that is gained and wielded through appearance or beauty. Power from beauty is cheap; it is fleeting and can be consumed and discarded at any moment. Your power isn’t just in your beauty; it’s in who you are and what you do. It is in your physical power—the power to be, and do, and live, and move. Your body is an instrument, NOT an ornament.
That truth will change the world and will change the way you move through the world. When you can begin to set fitness goals that focus on how you feel and what you can do instead of how much you weigh or how flat your stomach is, you will begin to experience real power and positive body image.
What is a workday like at Beauty Redefined?
Lindsay and I did a month-long speaking tour last month that allowed us to speak to thousands of people in Philadelphia, PA; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Boston, MA; Park City, UT; and Salt Lake City, UT. On top of traveling, we run everything else at Beauty Redefined virtually.
We are working on hosting our 8-week online body image resilience program on a new e-learning platform, and that has been taking a lot of time to set up. We run all our social media accounts to keep our wonderful supporters inspired and able to share positive, empowering messages online.
Lindsay designs our images and handles our Instagram page. We share the responsibilities of posting on our Facebook page, and I run our Twitter account. On top of that, we write blog content and correspond with people via email who want to do interviews with us or collaborate with us on projects. Our favorite part of the job is doing speaking events, but the day-to-day of this work is mostly behind a computer screen.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through Beauty Redefined?
I’ve learned that everyone has important work to do. So many girls and women don’t realize how valuable they are, and how much good they are able to do in a world that desperately needs them—not just a vision of them, but all of them.
Every one us have important things to do, and we can’t do those things if we are stuck in the lonely prison of feeling self-conscious. I learn that lesson again and again myself, that the work I’m doing at Beauty Redefined is important and necessary, and that I can’t be held back from this work because of days I feel too self-conscious to do a media interview or get on stage for a speaking event.
I had my first baby a few months ago, and despite weight fluctuations, random bouts of acne, and all that other awesome stuff that comes with new motherhood, I made sure to never hold myself back from accepting speaking engagements. If I had decided to wait a few more months and try really hard to lose some weight or “fix” myself in some other way before doing speaking events, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the incredible people who messaged us afterward to say we changed their lives. And I’d be doing the opposite of what we preach at Beauty Redefined.
So many girls and women hold themselves back from fulfilling their missions because they think they need to lose weight or get new clothes or get eyelash extensions or whatever else might “fix” them before they face the world. I hope that the work we do at Beauty Redefined can help teach the powerful girls and women of the world that they are good enough right now, and the world is waiting for them.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your work?
The incredible feedback we get from people who email us to tell us their story has been BY FAR the most humbling and affirming part of this work. We have had many people tell us they were planning to commit suicide and we changed their minds, which is on the extreme end. We also get wonderful girls and women just writing to thank us for helping them to see the best in themselves, to understand their worth and see beyond objectifying norms all around us. It’s been truly awesome.
What role can men play in redefining the meaning of beauty?
Men can refuse to consume objectifying media, including pornography and all forms of blatantly objectifying content. They can speak up when they see normalized objectification in ads, magazines, movies, TV, social media, etc. They can spend their money on products that aren’t marketed using sex. So many advertisers target men with objectifying images of women because they think men are dumb enough to fall for the whole “sex sells” lie.
The truth is, good men are smarter than that. They know women aren’t just pieces of meat to be used, abused, and discarded, and they can join the fight to recognize women as powerful and equal.