We really do not seek to focus this article on the body of Barbie Ferreira. Not how "soft, plump and pretty" she is (LA Times, September 2020) or how she has "learned to accept her curves" (Daily Mail, the day after this photo shoot). We also don't want to talk about "how it feels to be reduced to her most obvious and useful selling attributes." (Them., September 2019) Or how the term "plus size model" is something she feels comfortable with. (W, thousands of years ago, in March 2016).
And yet, here we are, using the first paragraph to introduce the 23-year-old actress's first big cover. Talking about her body.
Allow us a small 'spoiler': it's all a trap. Pointing at her body and celebrating conveys a less-than-encouraging message of "This not skinny girl is succeeding! Can you believe it?" Yes, it is important that people like Barbie appear on the big screen. People who represent this type of physique and who send a positive message to other women (especially those who most resemble her), conveying that they too can achieve everything they set out to do. The simple fact that Barbie exists greatly makes up for all those years we've worn long sleeves to hide our arms, spent money on slimming pills, or posed behind our friends in a group photo. All in the hope of looking slimmer.
Barbie gets it too. She knows that the mere existence of her body in Hollywood is a breath of fresh air. She is also aware of how important it is to see someone with whom you can identify in an advertisement, on TV or in a movie. But that doesn't mean it's fair. She doesn't validate that she has to keep talking about her body when all she wants to do is talk about her ambitions, her work and her talent. Anything but the physical.
Anyway, let's move on to something else. Barbie is one of the stars of 'Unpregant' (opening this fall), a comedy about a 'road trip'... to have an abortion. And the truth, we love the argument. It is a sincere, funny and very real story. "Normalizing abortion is the right thing to do." Barbie affirms under some LED lights in her kitchen, through Zoom. "Society puts a lot of pressure on people who have abortions, telling them they should feel guilty or ashamed about it. But the truth is that most of them feel relieved."
Barbie plays Bailey, a lonely and quirky high school girl whose former best friend is Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson), a senior with a perfect Instagram profile. The two reconnect when Veronica discovers that she is pregnant and needs to travel to another state to have an abortion. Veronica's friends are critical and her parents are too religious to ask them for help, and Bailey has a car.
We know what you're thinking and no, she's not one of those linear characters whose insecurities serve to make comedy or to complete the main character. Bailey is a complete character, with her own story and plot. And most importantly: "My character is not focused on her physicality," says Barbie. The role of Bailey did not imply a body type - neither the 'chubby' nor the "overweight and cheeky" one. Both character descriptions seen by Barbie-. Anyone, in theory, could be Bailey. "It was great not to talk about or make references to my body for once," she adds.
Being able to play such a nuanced character is something special for Barbie, knowing that acting has always been her goal, even when she started out as a model at the age of 18. Specifically, as a "curvy model", without even being 100% curvy. Being a size 40, she has had to fill out photo shoots to fill out clothes she was asked to model from Adidas, H&M, Target, Missguided, ASOS, and other brands with 'plus-size' lines.
However, when she gained weight and reached a size 44, "people told me to lose weight, are you kidding me?" she remembers her as she gestures with her hands signs of despair. "All this time I've been talking about being yourself and nobody was listening to me. At that moment I understood that even if I shouted it from the top of a mountain, my message would only be used as another marketing strategy."
And yet, Barbie kept screaming - especially in interviews with fashion publications - and her denunciation of how the industry treats models with non-tiny bodies catapulted her into another sector. Barbie entered Time magazine's 'Most Influential Teens' list in 2016 and became a benchmark in the 'body positive' movement. And since then she has not stopped influencing. Earlier this year, she signed on to become the first image for Becca Cosmetics, albeit on her own terms. "I told them, I'm not interested in a contract with a beauty brand that only caters to white, skinny, straight girls," she tells us, frowning in a way that conveys, "Hey, hello? You don't get the obvious?" What is it?" "That profile of a girl doesn't interest me and doesn't fit into what I consider beauty. In fact, I want to see less of it, it takes up too much space in the world. Why don't we try something new?"
That was the moment the world would find out that while her physicality has been part of Barbie's career so far, it's not going to be something that defines her going forward. In addition, it is enough to see her to realize that she is much more eclectic and interesting than what we had been told about her. She has a.. how do you say...? Charm? Yes, if it didn't sound like something grandmothers say. Charisma? It also sounds old. Barbie is the word you'd use to name what she's wearing today, which is basically the same as typing "indie girl look" into the Pinterest search engine. An oversized black t-shirt with a smoking Frankenstein overlaid with a floral long sleeve t-shirt by Gaultier. On the head, an undone but not messy bun; around his neck a silver necklace with safety pins; in the left ear, a silver earring in the shape of a crescent.
She's dressed for Zoom, which means she wouldn't have to see the lower half of him, but when she moves to sit on the couch, there we see them: Ravenclaw basketball shorts. (He's also shown us off-screen a new tattoo. "It's a spiral on the ass," he says nonchalantly. "A spiral for my quarantine spiral." His girlfriend, artist Elle Puckett, did it with a kit from ' handpoke' at home that Barbie gave Elle for her birthday).
The first impression that she gives us, is of being a quite calm girl, although she admits that she can't do anything calmly. "Either I try too hard or I don't at all," she confesses, before going into detail about her addiction to Animal Crossing. "I had to set time limits because I was so addicted that they gave me four in the morning. It's ridiculous that I spent so much time on this game. It's that you have to do everything by hand. By hand, I mean the Nintendo Switch. A waterfall here, a garden there..."
Being a bit obsessive and dealing with a lot of anxiety is in her DNA. "As a senior member of Generation Z, we've been through our fair share of bad times," says Barbie. "My first day of preschool was 9/11. We were the guinea pigs of the internet: you're 11, all the darkness of the web is concentrated on your computer and you can scroll through it." As a teenager, she was on everything: Tumblr, LiveJournal, Neopets, RuneScape, Xanga. "That had to do something to my brain," she continues. "I have crippling anxiety. Also a lot of depression issues, eating issues, paranoia and weird things going through my head that I'm sure come from the internet. I don't know if we're designed to do those things... to chat with strangers when you're 9. God knows who I was talking to."
Then there is the story of her family, which is a portrait of the American dream that until recently was still being preached as a real possibility. Barbie was raised by a single Brazilian mother, with an aunt and grandmother taking care of her while her mother, now a private chef, juggled culinary school with a grueling restaurant job. "It was hard," says Barbie, "but Grandma was always there, ready to fill my brain with fantastic stories."
"Let's just say she beautifies things," replies Barbie's mom, Janaina, who just got into our Zoom.
"Mom, Grandma said she ate with Gisele Bündchen," Barbie replies.
When Barbie first left New York to move to Los Angeles, Janaina FaceTimed her twice a day just to say hi and to make sure she was still alive. "If she didn't answer, she was going to call me six times," laughs Barbie. "Yes, mom, I love talking to you, but I'll forget to call you, and that doesn't mean she's dead." It's a cultural difference, Barbie explains, one thing first-generation American kids know all too well: Our parents just don't understand why we don't answer the phone all the time or come back for dinner every night. Like when her mom visits her and Barbie offers her to stay in a nice hotel or Airbnb, but Janaina complains about her because she wants to stay with Barbie, even if it means sleeping on the couch.
Right now, they haven't seen each other since Christmas, the longest time they've been apart. "I like to think we're friends," says Janaina. "And I know that when things get serious, for better or worse, I'm the first person you talk to." Yes, the fantasy of being friends with your mother in this case is real. You can tell through the screen. You can tell when Barbie shows the stuffed peppers that she has been cooking during our interview and her mother replies that she doesn't like stuffed peppers, that she prefers stuffed zucchini.
And then there's the obvious, simplest but most important reason you can't take your eyes off Barbie: her innate talent. "I was a very, dare I say empathic child," she says, "and perhaps too sensitive." Acting was the only thing keeping her from those feelings. She did theater and after class she rehearsed plays with the local drama club, dragging her grandmother to auditions. "Even though my grandmother didn't speak English, she didn't know her or where she was," she tells us.
At 21, Barbie auditioned for the role of Kat Hernandez from 'Euphoria' and before she was given it, she was doubted about ten times between her and another actress. “I have never been so nervous in my life,” she says. "I was literally exploding inside. I couldn't even move most of the day because I was thinking all the time, 'I need this, I don't want anything else, give me this, give me this, that's all I need.'"
And she got the call. Well, technically three missed calls: from her agent, her manager, and the casting director, while she was in therapy. "I told my therapist, 'Carol, I have to answer this,'" Barbie laughs. "She told me, 'I'll be here no matter what decision you make.' I love Carol."
If you've seen the series (and I know you have), you'll understand why she was chosen. Barbie never seems to be overreacting. All the value, the work, the reflection necessary to bring to life a character as complicated as Kat is evident, but it is not noticeable in her performance.
Barbie has a very realistic foundation and it is these that have helped her achieve such success. In a world dominated by evasive and complacent responses, her authenticity is refreshing. For example, she insincerely points out that it's about her worries about opportunities like 'Euphoria' or 'Unpregnant' coming to an end for her. Not just for her, but for anyone who doesn't have the normative Hollywood physique. (Yeah, sorry, let's get back to the subject of the body, just for a second.) "I'm afraid it's going to be 'out of style,'" she says. "That brands continue to look for models and characters as thin as possible."
The actress has also told us about her main concern this year: the US elections. Barbie is scared of what might happen (her words), and she should scare everyone enough to go vote (again, her words). "Since Trump was elected, I've noticed how popular hate speech and violent ideas are," says Barbie, looking up at the ceiling as she chooses her words carefully. "It's a disservice to yourself to think that everyone thinks like you. I'm at a point in my life right now where I see that I'm living in a different world than a lot of people."
"We think we're the best country, we think we're perfect, we think we're the land of the free, but we're not," she continues. "We're disillusioned with our country. I think that's part of the reason Gen Z has a lot of angst, sadness, and mental neuroses. We haven't come to terms with this yet." (That might explain the e-cigarette he keeps inhaling from. He had publicly announced on Instagram that he was quitting along with his Euphoria co-star Hunter Schafer, but "now I'm back," he says. "It's an addiction I'm working on. I'm not perfect").
Today, Barbie takes it out on her friends like many of us, especially when it comes to responding to hateful messages and personal attacks that come her way. Her best friend, actress Rowan Blanchard, says, "A lot of people feel like they can talk about anyone's life. In those moments, I remind Barbie, 'You're amazing, my friend. You're amazing. You're so talented, smart and beauty'. Sometimes you need someone to mirror you, you know?"
That's Barbie: a mirror. Our mirror, our consolation. Witnessing how they only talk about her to comment on her physicality makes our stomachs knot. In it we reflect our own fears and concerns that we do not always share. The fear of not being considered valid enough, the discomfort of not feeling loved for who we are. Those fears that do not leave us. That's why seeing Barbie say "fuck everything", seeing her get ahead, take up as much space as she wants... is proof that only what we want to matter should matter. And it's a relief we didn't expect, not because we didn't know we needed it, but because we never thought we'd get it.
Fashion direction by Cassie Anderson. styling by Chris Horan. hair by Ken Paves nails for STYLD by Ken Paves. Makeup by Kali Kennedy at Forward Artists using Becca Cosmetics. Manicure by Queenie Nguyen ay Nailing Hollywood for MiniLuxe. Decoration by the Danielle Von Braun for Art Department.
Barbie wears: T-shirt look: Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier top, Vintage Breast; Lisa Says Gah T-shirt; PH5 shorts; Oma the Label earrings; Ariana Boussard-Reifel ring. Cover Look: PH5 top and skirt; Leda Wood earrings; Ariana Boussard-Reifel ring. Champagne look: Vivienne Westwood custom top, Vintage Breast; Story Mfg. pants; White/Space Jewelry earrings. sunset look: Hervé Léger dress; Cled earrings. Chair and champagne look: Mugler dress; Ariana Boussard-Reifel ring. Close-up flat look: Schiaparelli earrings; Meow corset.Euphoria 2'Euphoria': the second special already has a trailerEuphoria (T2): Zendaya publishes the first photosZendaya talks about season 2 of 'Euphoria'
Via: Cosmopolitan US