When a trim and fit Liz Krueger slipped on a form-fitting body-con dress to wear to a late June wedding reception in Minneapolis, she needed to give herself a little pep talk first. “Well, I haven’t worn this in a while,” she thought to herself. “It’s time.” Little did she know that her choice would trigger a very different kind of dialogue — one involving body-shaming.
“The dress is made of a really thick, soft material and it’s not transparent,” Krueger, 31, told TODAY Style. She had been invited to the post-nuptial festivities — not the wedding itself — by her former college roommate and good friend.
Her visiting friend had even previewed four photos of Krueger’s potential reception attire and selected the bare-shouldered, tan-and-peach option as one of two semifinalists.
An hour after dinner, Krueger stood next to a cocktail table with her back to the dance floor. She was drinking coffee and reminiscing with her pal when suddenly, she said, “someone slapped me on my butt."
The alleged perpetrator, a woman who was laughing, appeared to be drunk, Krueger remembers. She told Krueger that she’d done the dirty deed on a dare from two friends. “You’re a target,” the derriere-slapper confessed.
Krueger said she responded quietly but firmly: “You’re lucky that I’m not usually offended very easily. But that was really rude.” Krueger was aware she had been the target of ongoing chatter among the women who initiated the encounter; they also appeared to be inebriated.
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Still aghast, Krueger kept thinking about the encounter. Frustrated, she called her husband and asked him to pick her up. “I wasn’t going to make a scene, because it’s just not my personality,” she said.
But the incident was far from over. Several days later, the party-spoilers took to social media to comment on Krueger’s “wildly inappropriate dress.”
“It felt like an example of the mean-girl mentality, especially when things were said that were inaccurate — like I’m trying to heighten my modeling career,” she said. In fact, Krueger’s not a model, but a nutrition and fitness coach, along with her husband, Dan, at their business, DKFitness. The two will be married two years in September.
She posted her story on Instagram, where it took on a life of its own as supporters rallied around her to say, “You, go, girl!”
Krueger decided to turn the negative experience into a “kindness movement." She said, "I’m a strong person and I want to use this for the greater good. Harassment and bullying take place against all ages. We promote empowerment in our fitness business, urging people to be comfortable in their own skin and to be healthy and positive.”
“This type of behavior tends to get brushed under the rug when only women are involved,” Dan Krueger told TODAY in an email. “Had a man come up and slapped Liz's behind, there would have been a very different response at the wedding and online.”
Now Liz Krueger wants to partner with local anti-bullying organizations to “help spread small acts of kindness on a daily basis.” She invites everyone to join her at #KruegerKindness, aware that she’s not the only person who’s had this kind of uncomfortable experience.
“Wearing that dress was not just an attention-getting thing,” she said. “If I was heavier set like I used to be, someone might have shamed me for that instead. It’s like there’s a double standard, because it doesn’t matter what you look like — other people have no right to treat anyone that way.”
Krueger said she was 20 pounds heavier three years ago before she got deeply into fitness, thanks to her husband’s encouragement. “We’ve worked together and as a result, I underwent a real transformation,” she said.
Another local friend, Kristi Roby, told TODAY she’s proud that Krueger is spinning a negative into such a positive light. “Hopefully, change will include improving how we as women treat each other,” Roby said. “We need to remember that we don’t know very much about a person just by looking at them.”
Even Krueger’s mom, Patty Neubert, said in an interview with TODAY that she’s impressed that her daughter kept her cool and didn’t want to escalate the situation. “As a mother I felt bad for her because she was bullied as a child. She had acne and used to come home crying.”
“People will always have their opinions,” Krueger said. “Know that those comments may stem from insecurities, issues and struggles in their own lives. Move forward and know who you are outside of what they say.”
This story was first published on July 6, 2016.