Following an appearance in photographer Phil Toledano’s book, A New Kind of Beauty, Justin Jedlica was dubbed ‘The Human Ken Doll’ while making a brief appearance on 20/20. The name stuck, and Jedlica—and his 149 cosmetic surgeries—have become an international phenomenon. Recently, Jedlica made headlines for calling Valeria Lukyanova, ‘The Real Life Barbie,’ “an illusionist” in an interview with GQ. He opens up to The Daily Beast about dreaming of becoming famous, fighting body dysmorphic rumors, and how he really feels about why Lukyanova has gone too far.
When did you first get the nickname ‘The Human Ken Doll’?
In the beginning [of the piece with 20/20], there was a voiceover that said ‘Meet the Human Ken Doll, whose upper body is filled with silicone implants.’ At the time, Valeriya [Lukyanova, The Real-Life Barbie] had been out about six to eight months in the media, and there was no other mention in the piece about Ken Doll anything. It was meant to be cute and catchy for the show, I don’t believe that 20/20 knew that people would then dub me as this ‘Ken Doll’ person. People wanted to believe that I walked into a doctor’s office with a Ken Doll and was like ‘Make me look like this!’ Things went viral.
I don’t even know if I look like a Ken Doll, but if other people want to say I do, it’s flattering. As a kid, you play with Ken dolls and kind of assume that is what a handsome guy is supposed to look like.
Was there something or someone you did want to look like? Where did you pull inspiration from?
I would say more of my inspiration stems from ‘manga’ or anime. I find that much more appealing in all honestly than a Ken doll. It’s sort of that over-stylized, cartoonish version of human form [that I like]. I have all these haters on my page being like, ‘Does that mean you want to cut off your penis?’ And I’m like actually, I wish it was dragging on the ground like anime. [Laughs] There’s actually this subgroup of people do that—they cut off their nipples and bellybuttons and castrate themselves. By [surgery] number 13 or 14, I became really enamored with celebrity and with pop culture—I was a big follower of Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers.
When did you have your first plastic surgery?
I started out looking for my doctor at 17, but my parents wouldn’t let me do it because I wasn’t of legal age. So three days after my 18th birthday I went in and did my first nose job, which is something I wanted from a really young age. For me, that was something I needed to fix. It was something that was bad on my face. I saved my money—my first nose job was $3,500. Everyone was against me doing it. My dad and I didn’t get along very well, so I think that part of it was that I loved being a little rebellious against my parents.
What did your parents think afterwards?
I was brought up really poor. Not to say that we were on the corner begging for food, but there was no extra. There was no travel—no flying for sure. We used to go camping as our family vacation in the woods. When we got a used pop-up camper with the ceiling stapled back up that was posh for us.
I used to watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and it was just this notion in my brain that I wanted so badly to have luxury in my life. I wanted fame—but what kid doesn’t? My view of the world was very tiny, and the only thing I was being fed on pop culture-wise was what I internalized—that trendy, over-stylized, Michael Jackson look. So inherently, I wanted to emulate that. And I thought—just like most people say—that if I looked the part, maybe one day I could be like that person or status group.
And somehow, the universe brought it around, but in a very strange way. What happened was, [plastic surgery] was the one thing I did that I felt like I could tangibly grasp onto. I knew it was something I wanted to do because to me, it was something that rich people did. It was a status symbol that said ‘I’ve arrived and I’ve earned this.’
How do you feel about people being so fascinated by your appearance?
I saw it as an investment for myself, so it is definitely a confidence booster and something that really helps build self-esteem.
I really thought that the biggest change in my life would come from after the nose job—like, you would look in the mirror and think, ‘This is amazing.’ But the funniest thing about going through that process was that was actually not at all the most validating point of the experience. I thought the worst part would be writing the check. I was dreading that moment, because there I was thinking I was wasting all of my money and I would have no more savings. But when I wrote the check, it was the most euphoric feeling.
If you can save that amount of money and it’s something that will make you feel empowered and make you feel like you’re prepared to go into the world a little more confident, then do it, be proud, and fake it until you make it. That’s kind of what I did. And after a while, the energy that came around me was like, ‘Oh, you had plastic surgery, so you must have made it’—which wasn’t really the truth, but people began to believe that about me.
I moved to New York City and I started meeting all these socialite women, and they were all enamored that I had this surgery. It was the one thing we could all bond on. Although it sounds kind of weird, it was sort of a way to get out of that mundane lifestyle that I felt like my parents had.
So how many surgeries have you actually had at this point?
So you want the scandalous numbers. I’ve had 149 cosmetic procedures—which is different than surgeries. I’ve probably had 19 actual full-on surgeries; even in those 19 surgeries I’ve had some combos where there have been several areas worked on.
And how much have you spent?
Do you receive criticism for spending that much on plastic surgery?
It was funny; I got a reputation locally for having all this surgery. My friend group—the gay nightclub sort of people—were always like, ‘Oh I wish I could afford to do that.’ In the hierarchy of what I thought was important, it was up there. I didn’t think about getting a new car. I didn’t think about taking vacations. People would always say, ‘How did you save the money?’ But people will spend a few grand on a vacation, on a television, on a car. There’s nothing wrong with the way anybody decides to validate how to spend their expenses to make them feel special.
So has this become your full-time job now?
Absolutely. I never thought I’d have media attention over my surgeries, but people started writing in to me saying, ‘Hey, who can I go to for my nose?’ or ‘Who can I go to for my bicep implants?’ I find it so rewarding [to provide advice] that regardless of if the media was there, I would continue to study all the products and I would continue with my surgeries. So it’s just an easy thing for me to do on the side and help other people. Basically, what I consider myself doing right now is being a privatized beauty broker.
What are your long-term career goals?
My main goal, really, is that I’d like to be in the entertainment field. I like the attention. People know me as ‘The Human Ken Doll,’ and that’s sort of a window in. I mean, why wouldn’t I ride on the coattails of that story for a while? A reality show would be cool, although that’s a bit more centric on me than I need, but I need to tell my story. Because right now, all people get are the freak-a-zoid stats of things. Most people go, ‘Oh [he has] body dysmorphic disorder or OCD,’ but it’s actually…
Right. I read that a psychologist on Bethenny told you that you were suffering from body dysmorphia. Did you think there was any truth to it?
I mean, I looked into that years ago because when I was in high school and had my first nose job, people would bring that up and say, ‘Oh, you’re crazy.’ I don’t think I’m OCD or BDD—body dysmorphic disorder stems from people who stare in the mirror and have a false misrepresentation of how they look. They fixate on one thing in their brain until they’ve blown it completely out of proportion and can’t stop thinking about it. Typically, social anxiety disorder stems from that. People become reclusive. They literally think they’re monsters.
My view of myself is very realistic. I think I’m blessed to have the body I have, and [plastic surgery] has just become something that’s fun and cool. It’s a way for me to express myself, and at this point, obviously there’s an additional kickback from the media and I can pay for the surgeries now by selling my stories because people are interested. I like the attention that stems from it. I look how my body looks.
I don’t have a misrepresentation in my head of what I look like. I didn’t do my surgery to blend in; I didn’t do it to look like anyone else or to fit in with anybody else. To the contrary, I did it to look exceptional in my mind. I wanted to have a look that was very unmistakable. And whether or not other people agree with it, it doesn’t matter, because I did my surgeries for me.
Who are people to tell me that [my surgeries] looks weird? I mean, why is western culture the only correct perception of beauty? That’s just ridiculous. It’s a completely ignorant statement. There seems to be this overwhelming idea that you should be happy with what God gave you or what you were born with. There’s this weird stigma around allowing yourself to feel ownership over your own body and really take charge of how people view it. I don’t understand that at all.
I wasn’t trying to look like ‘The Real Life Barbie,’ who just said everyone shouldn’t be ethnic, that you shouldn’t mix races. That’s why people aren’t pretty anymore, she said, that’s why there’s an increase in plastic surgery. Oh my god. [Laughs] That was ridiculous.
Are you married?
Yes, we’ve been together five years in September. We were civil union’ed in July.
How does he feel about your surgeries?
Actually, he tells me that my plastic surgery turns him on. [Laughs] When he talks about my shoulders—because I have the front, middle, and back—he’s like, ‘Oh, these are like my new handlebars!’
But in all honesty, he doesn’t have any qualms with it. It was something we talked about even before we got married, because I was like, ‘We’re not going to get married if you’re going to give me shit about my surgeries!’ He was like, ‘Oh, I know that’s part of you, it’s totally fine.’ He’s not opposed to having work done either. It really was a moot point; it wasn’t an issue at all. I think he thinks it’s kind of cool.
Yeah, I would assume if you were together for so long he was probably OK with it.
He’s kind of like, ‘Wow, my boyfriend is reinventing himself!’
Tell me about meeting ‘Real Life Barbie.’ I read that you were unimpressed with her.
She’s interesting. I hate that people compare us, because she’s putting on the illusion of a mannequin. It is a little bit weird that she’s trying to be stoic, emotionless. She’s puts her hand in the position of mitts and walks around in these tiny baby steps and blinks her eyes. She has these doll-like contacts in and extensions in her hair.
She’s a very pretty little girl. She knows how to do her makeup like stage makeup and give herself different features. The same techniques are used in theater all the time and with drag queens. I’m not saying she’s a drag queen, but it’s something completely different from me.
How she became famous is all a complete lie and no one seems to realize it. And not that it matters, but everybody keeps putting her back in the headlines. Basically, when she became famous—she told me when we talked on Facebook—she was a composer. I don’t know if that means she wrote music or was a DJ, because there was a bit of a language barrier, obviously. But she wanted to get more bookings, so she and her friends decided she would dress up like a doll and pass around this little white lie that she spent £600,000 on surgery to look like Barbie.
But what happened was, it got bigger than what she wanted, and then the media came to her and said, ‘I can’t believe you did this.’ And she neither confirmed nor denied it. So everyone made the assumption that she had the surgery—she didn’t lie. She just didn’t say anything.
That’s kind of shady—because she got all of this publicity by riding on the coattails of this plastic surgery story. A little girl dressing like a doll is not worthy of two years of media exposure. If all it takes for you to be a plastic surgery celebrity is tracks in your hair, colored contacts, and breast implants, then three-quarters of the women in L.A. should be famous.
Like what is the big freaking deal? And now I feel like she’s kind of hanging onto straws with these retarded articles about her living on air and light.
And that she’s had crazy, out-of-body experiences.
Oh, and that she’s from outer space and now there’s this whole weird shtick about multi-racial people and how they’re not typically beautiful, so that’s why we have plastic surgery. And she’s glad she looks Nordic because she’s a pure-bred or something. I mean, give me a break. Is this really the podium she has to stand on as far as what she’s going to do with her celebrity? If you want to call it that. It’s so inconsequential. And moreover, it’s damaging. She’s getting out there and basically preaching Nazism.
I had said things about her being an illusionist and she took offense to the fact that I alluded what she’s doing to dressing like a drag queen. But, she’s playing a part. I can’t take this off. I wake up and go to bed looking like this—it’s me every day. She’s playing dress up. She’s putting on a theatrical performance as an illusionist and then saying these retarded articles like, ‘My head is too heavy for my body,’ and people are like WOW!
She’s not an alien! She’s a 26-year-old woman who happens to be petite and picked a gimmick. There’s no talent. When I talked to her, she said she wants to be a spiritual leader and teach classes about how to live your life without emotion, because she believes that emotion is the route to all bad decision-making. So, if you remove emotion, you’ll make smarter choices.
And I just completely disagree. I make a lot of decisions because I want to be happy, and I want my friends and family to be happy.