Is the ‘Real-Life Barbie’ a Media Myth?
Over the past few weeks, photos of a supposed real-life Barbie have shocked many around the world. The controversy surrounds a young Russian model named Valerie Lukyanova (or Valeriya Lukianova, also known by her YouTube handle Amatue), who according to some sources spent over half a million dollars and endured dozens of surgeries in order to become a real-life Barbie doll. There are hundreds of photos of Lukyanova, some showing her porcelain face with flawless skin, glassy blue eyes, a blank stare, and small waist.
Beautiful? Ugly? Scary? Photoshopped? The story sparked outrage, with many using Lukyanova as a horrific example of the pursuit of beauty gone awry, the sad consequence of a society in which girls are encouraged to view thin fashion models and Barbie dolls as ideals. Jezebel.com, for example, headlined a piece “Ukrainian Model Has Supposedly Barbified Herself Through Plastic Surgery,” and offered an animated video depicting “the many supposed surgeries that 21-year-old Ukrainian model, musician, and astroplanner Valeria Lukyanova has undergone to turn herself into a living, breathing Barbie.” Fox News ran a piece titled “Why the ‘Living Barbie’ is Dangerous” by a psychiatrist named Keith Ablow, in which he stated that Lukyanova’s quest to become Barbie doll-like was “an iconic symbol of things to come,” when “self-expression requires mimicry of others, even of inanimate objects or fictional characters.” People like Lukyanova (are there other people like her?), this outraged psychiatrist warns, “cannot empathize with the suffering of others” and “are, therefore, capable of causing enormous pain in the world, possibly even enjoying it.” Ablow even compares this “real-life Barbie” to despots like Hitler and warns that Holocaust is a logical consequence of this mentality. Indeed, Ablow claims, “We are losing ourselves. We must reclaim ourselves. Everything depends on it.”
Weird—but is it true?