Oprah gives MU professor a 'makeunder'

Cynthia Frisby said she would use the new look to self-evaluate.

Strategic communication professor Cyndi Frisby underwent a 'makeunder' Tuesday on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Frisby's hair, nails and wardrobe were adjusted for her new look. Courtesy of The Oprah Winfrey Show

When strategic communication professor Cyndi Frisby appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Tuesday as a part of the segment "makeunders," she wore her brand new look as if it was as much an expression of her as her previous one.

Oprah called in four women who overdress and overdo their makeup and hair to give them a more natural and fresh look.

"I'm getting used to (the transformation)," Frisby said. "The nails were the hardest thing."

Along with cutting Frisby's nails, Oprah's team cut her hair and adjusted her wardrobe. Her clothing was something she said she needed to change to be more comfortable and accepted at her church but not necessarily in her professional life.

"I got criticism about how I dress from my church and not my colleagues and always wondered why they were unhappy with the way I look," Frisby said. "I want to do this (new look) for a while to learn why I do things that I do and learn more about me."

Frisby also mentioned her students have seemed to always like and take interest in her clothing choices because they expressed her personality.

"On my teaching evaluations, when it asks, 'What are three things you like about the instructor?,' I often get answers like, 'Her outfits,' " Frisby said.

Junior Kristina Knaus took Frisby's Cross-Cultural Journalism class last summer. She felt Frisby's style reflected her personality accurately and made the class more relaxed and engaged.

"She has a very bold and confident way of dressing, but she was a bold and confident woman," Knaus said. "On the first day she made it clear that it was a casual learning environment, so the fact that she wasn't dressed in a suit every day just reinforced that atmosphere. It was one that we could all feel comfortable in."

Despite a friend's concern about the negative slant of the show's topic, Frisby perceived her being chosen for the show as a compliment but didn't want to get her hopes up until after the taping was over.

"(The process of getting onto the show) was surreal," Frisby said. "My reaction was still skeptical, even when they flew me out to Chicago. I was thinking, 'I'll believe it when I see it.' "

Because Frisby has already been through a physical transformation — losing 90 pounds and keeping it off for 19 years -- she has come to realize the effects these changes have had on others, especially her mother, Ada Smith, who appeared with her on the show.

"If you would know (Cyndi), she takes pride in the way she looks," Smith said. "Since she was a child, she has always done that, presented herself well."

Since the show has aired, Frisby and her family have received a number of phone calls from old friends and relatives who have lost touch. Smith said they have called to say how proud they are of her and how beautiful she looks and acts. Smith has received many of these calls and said she still finds the event surreal.

"I have to watch it again just to (confirm) that I was on the show," Smith said. "Her hair was beautiful, the outfit was outstanding. When she came onto the stage that was the high point of my life."

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