Welcome to the Dollhouse
Meet The "Real Life Barbie"
The world first met Ukrainian model and Internet sensation Valeria Lukyanova last year, with the help of a massively successful Jezebel feature and a fashion spread in V Magazine. It was Lukyanova’s small waist and anime eyes, that helped bring fashion shoot’s title, “Living Doll,” to life.
Lukyanova was fully aware of the effect her appearance created on camera, telling V: “Every good-looking woman with fine features and a slim figure looks like a doll.”
The fashion spread made the then-23-year-old “real-life Barbie” a controversial figure worldwide. People were outraged by her extreme appearance—which the media attributed to rib removal and breast-augmentation surgeries, among other treatments.
But now, in an effort to set the record straight—or extend her 15 minutes—Lukyanova has teamed up with Vice to create a 20-minute documentary about her bizarre life.
Rather than solely focus on her surreal appearance, “Space Barbie” chronicles Lukyanova’s work as a spiritual guru. “I am a lecturer on the subject of out-of-body travel,” she says, explaining that she uses her appearance as a way to draw attention to her enlightened causes. “If a nun starts talking about spirituality, will anyone notice her? No, No one will,” she says. “But if a beautiful, inspiring young woman starts talking about it, many people will start thinking. So I use my appearance to promote my spiritual ideas. It works perfectly.”
Likely at Lukyanova’s request, “Space Barbie” does not explore what viewers most want to know: how she arrived at her current physical form (though early photos depict her as more conventional looking). But she admits: “When we think we’ve reached perfection, the degradation begins. I have a vast amount of work yet to do on myself.”
With millions of YouTube hits to her homemade spiritual-advising videos (some of which even provide makeup tips), Lukyanova’s alien-like appearance and vain pursuits have won her a vast fan following. In an effort to prove her clairvoyant talents in the documentary, she holds a ritual with her best friends, whom she calls her “spiritual soulmates.” The scene perfectly expresses the yin and yang of Lukyanova’s life as a narcissistic sage. Her séance’s pure intentions go awry when she begins art directing the camera, fearing that it will look too much like a cult activity. However hilarious, her efforts are certainly lost. Part candlelight vigil, part birdcall, the group whistling exercise is somehow supposed to help the young women communicate with their own DNA cells.
“I [once] asked myself whether everything was alright with my head,” Lukyanova said of her Haley Joel Osment–type abilities to hear voices and see people from other planets. “One day I decided to visit a psychiatrist ... He said that I was very lucky I ended up coming to him, because if it was another doctor, I definitely would have been taken into a ‘special place.’” Instead of committing her, Lukyanova says the psychiatrist praised her psychic abilities and told her that she possesses a special talent.
Unsurprisingly, Lukyanova’s family is shocked by the public fascination that surrounds her—and better yet, they can't understand why she isn’t perceived as more of an intellectual. “I never thought that my sister would be called a Barbie,” Lukyanova’s sister, Olga, tells the cameras. “She’s always had this doll-like look, but a doll is associated with an unintelligent person, and since my sister is very bright and interesting, I’ve never associated her with Barbie.”
But Lukyanova is more comfortable with the Barbie comparison. “I like this comparison. It’s wonderful to look like a doll,” she says. “Even though people call me a Barbie, I never tried to look like a doll. I just like everything beautiful, feminine, and refined. It just so happens that dolls are based on the image of refined girls.”