Six@Six 2.0 lecture to discuss impact of body image on self-esteem

For immediate release…
Monday – Nov. 25, 2013

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - There’s Barbie's figure. And then there’s true beauty that is not about body shape but about attitude, self-esteem and nutrition. Northern Kentucky University student Kairee Franzen researched this topic as part of her classes and then developed a workshop for pre-teen girls called “Smart Girls.”

She will share her research in the next NKU Six@Six 2.0 lecture on Dec. 3, at 6 p.m.

Franzen’s lecture, titled “Beauty, Body Image, and Breaking Barriers,” will be held at The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s downtown branch (800 Vine Street, Cincinnati). It is free and open to the public.

Franzen is a senior at NKU who is studying exercise science and dance. She holds a minor in honors and was recognized as a Scripps Howard Honors Fellow for the research she conducted in this study. She gave her “Smart Girls” series its first field test last spring at the Buenger Boys and Girls Club in Newport’s westside. Over nine weeks, the girls in Franzen’s participatory class were empowered to believe they can be successful and healthy inside and out. In this upcoming Six@Six 2.0 lecture, Franzen will share what the research taught her and what she taught the girls.

This is the fourth year for NKU’s Six@Six, which features lectures by NKU faculty at community venues. This year, NKU added the “2.0” lectures to showcase research and creative work by students and recent graduates.

“We have scores of students who are producing great research, often to the benefit of community partners. Six@Six seemed a good way to share some of this work with the community,” said Mark Neikirk, executive director of NKU’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, which coordinates the series.

Come show your support for the work of local students. Though tickets are complimentary, reservations are requested. To order tickets online or for more information visit

Learn more about the full Six@Six series at Most of the lectures are $6 (students free) but “Smart Girls” is free to all attendees due to generous sponsorship by The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Q&A with Kairee Franzen

Q: What was it that interested you in researching this topic and creating your "Smart Girls" series?
A: I've been dancing since I was three, became an assistant teacher when I was 10, and have been teaching and choreographing since I was 16. So, you could say my life pretty much revolves around young girls. I've also worked with some children's summer camps. Clearly, I love working with kids, and in doing so I've noticed how much they scrutinize every aspect of their self. I see girls I teach as young as seven (and through high school) lifting their shirts to look at their stomachs in the mirror or analyzing their legs. This is really disturbing to me, especially as someone who has struggled with body image. I also did a project in an EMB (electronic media broadcast) class a few years ago about how Barbie impacts girls' body image, so this played a huge role as well.

So, I made it my goal to change this in other girls, because I want them to learn what matters is how you feel and who you are, not what the outside shows. Our standards for ourselves kill our self-esteem and make us less successful. I wanted to prevent and reverse that.

Q: Since you are studying exercise science and dance, how much did these areas of study help you in creating the series?

A: My studies helped immensely for certain aspects of my project. It gave me a leg up on all of the information I taught them about truly being healthy with fitness and nutrition. I was also able to explain things very simply and understandably to them while still making an impact. However, there were other things I had to do a lot more research on. I looked back at what I had done on my EMB Barbie project and expanded on it.

Also, my exercise science studies focus more on physiological and functional aspects of the topic. I needed to understand the psychological. Though I took a "Psychology of Exercise" course, there was a lot I needed to expand on, but these things gave me a basis for learning all of the different influences of body image and how I can use the information I found to give girls the knowledge they need to make healthier decisions for their lives, both physically and mentally.

Q: What kind of impact did the series have on the girls who attended?

A: The girls wanted to be there and made an effort in all of the activities. They looked forward to me coming every week. I don't think I changed their minds about some of their eating habits, but they did understand how to read nutrition labels and what is good or bad for you, despite advertising claims. They also found out that some healthy food "actually tastes good!"

They enjoyed the physical activity I did with them. This is where my dance experience came in. Dance is something most young girls enjoy a lot more than sports or formal exercise, so they found out that being active is fun. I think the greatest impact was everything they learned about the media and advertising. A lot of them mentioned to me that this was their favorite week, and from the reactions I saw, it was the week they learned the most. They didn't know how much media distorts images of people, and that what we see isn't real. This helped them like their self and their bodies better.

By the end, their role models were no longer so because of their looks, but they chose their role models based off of values. All in all, I think it was a great experience for them.

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