On looking back I see that fashion and the desire to manipulate my image have been a big part of me since before I can remember. I credit my mother and grandmothers with my love of clothes. Mother and Granny dressed me like a little fashion plate. My dad’s mother was as elegant as they came and was my first role model. I remember looking at Mother’s fashion magazines and throwing away the printed clothes that came with cutout paper-dolls and drawing own. As soon as I could hold a needle, I sewed my dolls’ clothes. Later, I learned to sew and created my own.
Yet, as interested as I was in how I looked, I also was interested in why the way we look is such an important part of who we are as people.
Fortunately, I was able to get the education that enabled me to blend my interest in personal identity and fashion—an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in social-psychology, consumer behavior, and fashion.
Professor of Marketing (Emerita) and former Assistant Dean of the School of Business at Woodbury University, Karen Kaigler-Walker is an expert on the psychology of women’s appearance. She has made numerous TV and radio appearances, including serving as an on-camera spokeswoman for L’Oreal, and has made public speaking appearances in the US, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. She is the author of “Positive Aging: Every Woman’s Quest for Wisdom and Beauty,” an early look at aging Baby Boom women. In addition to academic journals, she is published in The “Los Angeles Times” and various magazines and on-line venues. For the past decade she has focused on Chinese women and has served as a US delegate to two conferences sponsored by the All China Women’s Federation. She has consulted with Funtry (major image consulting firm in Beijing) and the Rali Magazine group (largest publishers of fashion-related magazines in China). Currently, she is a luxury-brand marketing, academic consultant with Mercedes-Benz (China), Ltd. She is a contributor to CNN’s iReport and a blogger. Formerly of Altadena, CA, but a Texan by birth, she and her husband, Bud, and their dog, Sophie, now divide their time between their homes in Haskell and Fort Worth, TX.
I care deeply about and advocate for women and children. My interest in the true nature of beauty came from years of seeing women and girls being limited by our society’s view that their worth was linked to their appearance and then limited by the appearance that they created. It’s a two-edged sword. It’s no stretch to say that women have been hurt as much by youthful beauty standards as they have by any other aspect of their lives. And yet, beauty, in its truest form, is a gift from God. It is not and should not be the end product of youth-centered media and marketing activities to be consumed like a product by an insatiable society trying to grasp what seems to be the gold ring of beauty that turns out to be a tarnishing brass.
I’m a post-midlife spiritual seeker who’s taken a circuitous path in my search for God and now am solidly a Christian. After spending a decade outside of the Christian fold, studying world religions and searching for answers that still plagued me from my strict Christian upbringing, I felt called by God to “come home,” back to my Christian roots. And called I was! God steered me to Fuller Theological Seminary, where I earned an MA in Theology. I then was asked to develop and teach Fuller’s first course in women’s spirituality. My five years as a student at Fuller were some of the most memorable of my life.
I’m a born teacher. Although officially retired, I still teach wherever and whenever I’m asked. My mission is to help those who seek a clearer understanding of God in their lives. I sometimes preach at the First United Methodist Church in Haskell, where my great-grandfather helped to lay the stone foundation in 1910 and the church home of my daddy and his parents and sisters. I lead classes and speak to women’s groups. Most recently I was part of a team of United Methodist Women invited to come Zimbabwe, where I talked on women’s leadership in the church and led a session on healing the spirit.
Finally, I’m a woman with a solid sense of humor who believes that life’s big issues don’t need to be made worse with gloom and doom. Sometimes I’m irreverent, but I’m not mean spirited. There is a difference.