Kristen Nielsen '16

If you're looking for some inspiration, you can find it in this week's Profile, Kristen Nielsen. As a mother to two, loving wife, dedicated student, active band mate and more, I'm so happy that Kristen could find time in her packed schedule to chat with me. After learning more about her, I feel that I can no longer use "lack of time" as an excuse for anything. With this interview, Kristen has inspired me to push my limits, believe in myself, and I am left feeling extremely inspired by her- I'm sure you will too!   

  • Name: Kristen Nielsen
  • Hometown: Erie, PA
  • Graduation Year: 2016, (May!)
  • Age: 28
  • Major: Communication
  • Relationship Status: Happily married
  • Campus Activities: (Formerly Rebel Girl Radio), President – Rebel Grrrlz Club, Ladyfest Erie Coordinator.


  • Favorite Food: Veggie pizza with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese
  • Favorite Color: Violet
  • Favorite Band: Bikini Kill
  • Favorite Song: “Rebel Girl”
  • Favorite Hobby: Playing music with my band, Dysmorphia
  • Favorite TV Show: Adventure Time
  • Favorite Person: Kathleen Hanna

This or That-

  • Daytime or nighttime: Nighttime
  • Summer or winter: Fall!  Haha.
  • Instagram or Twitter: Neither
  • Salty or sweet: Salty
  • Coffee or tea: Both!
  • Dogs or cats: Both
  • Books or movies: Movies


1. With the gender conference and Ladyfest coming up this Friday, I’m sure you’re in full preparation mode. For those who don’t know, what exactly is Ladyfest?  How, when, and why did you get involved?

For over a decade now I have been obsessed with the past, present and future of the Riot Grrrl Movement.  This movement is best described as radical feminism within the underground music community, (specifically punk rock).  This genre, since it’s inception in the late 70’s, has promoted the subversion of the status quo.  By the 90’s the punk genre progressively became more testosterone driven inspiring some ladies, (most notably Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill), to pick up instruments to fight back. Ladyfest is an arts and music event that embodies the Riot Grrrl Movement whole-heartedly.  It wasn’t until about 2011 that I first heard about Ladyfest, (which began on the West Coast in 2000).  But the moment I heard about it, I knew I had to put one together in Erie.  So I did.  In fact, I’ve been putting together 3 a year since the first Ladyfest Erie here at Behrend in April of 2012.

2. Who can and should attend Ladyfest?

LADYFEST IS FOR EVERYONE!  Anyone who believes in gender equality is welcome to participate or attend. 

3. Her Campus believes in the empowerment of women, and I know you do too. Can you tell me more about your opinions on girl power and women’s movements? 

I think I was always a feminist.  Even as a child, I hated the idea that there was a certain way I was expected to look or act.  I hated it and from as early as I can remember I fought against the tides of society to discover who I really was as a person.   This experience has made me passionate about NOT enforcing arbitrary gender roles on children.  I hope someday my children will thank me for that. From there, a lot of my experiences helped push me to embrace feminism in a more radical manner.  Rape, domestic violence, body image issues, complicated pregnancies, losing my first daughter and a general lack of tangible female role models are all things I experienced before I even turned 20. I had a lot of anger and sadness pent up inside.  I had to find a way to let it all out. I believe that many women experience one or many of these issues at some point in their life.  I feel as if I suffered through many of these times isolated and alone.  It literally almost killed me.  I am very dedicated to helping other women in any way I can. Women are so strong and capable and it is a damn shame that from the day we are born we are programmed to think otherwise.  My goal is to undo that programming as much as possible. 

4. Tell me about your band Dysmorphia. What exactly is “Riot Punk” and what makes you different from other all-girl bands? Is there a message you’re trying to convey?

Dysmorphia is my baby.  I played in a couple punk bands since about 2004, (Kill People, FML), and even dabbled in the solo realm, (Auda KonTroll).  But I had been longing to start a Riot Grrrl band ever since I knew they existed.  The problem was that there weren’t many females in Erie’s music scene at that time.  Over the years I came to know some really awesome ladies who were either playing solo or “the girl” in other bands.  In July of 2014 I finally found a practice space and rallied my comrades.  We all have never been so happy to play music. Dysmorphia is the name I chose for us.  It refers to body dysmorphic disorder which affects millions of men and women in the US. Our main message is to love yourself and embrace your differences and uniqueness.  We also address political issues in our songs.  But most importantly, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  I mean, we say what we mean and we mean what we say, but we never forget to laugh at ourselves either.

5. To me, you seem like a Superwoman yourself. How do you balance being a student, mother, wife, band member and more? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

I have 2 kids, 2 cats, a dog a husband, 3 jobs, a band, Ladyfest, Battlefield – Ladyfest’s DIY zine, and 16 credits in classes.  How do I do it?  Good question.  For the most part, I’ve been living in a constant state of panic since I began college in 2011.  As stressful as it is, seeing what I am capable of keeps me going.  I think of how my kids see me now and how this experience will shape them in the future.  The “I don’t have time” excuse never works with me.  They know better. I would never have gotten this far without my husband, Kris.  He helps with the kids a lot.  We are a great team. I can’t imagine life after college.  I feel like no matter what job I end up with, it couldn’t possibly be a difficult as juggling 3 jobs and classes.  Now that I have survived this period in my life, (and the periods leading up to it), nothing can stop me. 

6. What do you hope to do with your degree after graduation?  What is your dream job?

I really enjoy video production, music and event planning.  Public relations is also a big part of that.  I feel like I have many valuable skills and hope to find a job using most of them.  I would love to start my own production company someday.  Until then I’d love to get a job locally producing commercials and promo videos for local nonprofits.  I also wouldn’t mind shooting music videos for local musicians on the side. 

7. What is one piece of advice you would like to give to our readers?

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.  Stop making excuses as to why it’s hard or impossible.  The only reason that is true is because you’ve wasted too much time and effort on why you can’t instead of diving into it.  Even if you fail at what you’re aiming for you will learn from that experience.  Nothing in your life is more valuable than experience.  Even if you think something is impossible, just think of how much credit you’ll get when YOU are THE ONE who does it. 

8. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

I’m not sure if this is the last Ladyfest Erie at Behrend.  As I graduate, someone else would have to technically manage the event.  I’m not sure if anyone is up to it, but I am hoping to find someone willing to continue this tradition on campus in future years. Ladyfest will take place in McGarvey Commons from 3-8pm on Friday.  It is the finale to the annual Gender Conference.  This year it is FREE however we will have, (awesome), t-shirts available for $10 while supplies last!

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview, Kristen! You are a grade-A example of a Collegiette! HCXO