“In 1997, the pop group Aqua had a hit song called Barbie Girl that reached the top of the charts. Who would have dreamed that the theme of the song would actually enter reality 17 years after its release?

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

I’m a Barbie girl in the Barbie world

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Life in plastic, it’s fantastic

You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere

Imagination, life is your creation

Come on Barbie lets go party ah, ah ah, ah, yeah

Remember when little girls used to dress up their dolls? Well, now some girls who’ve grown up are into a new form of extreme body modification that can make them look like living plastic dolls. It’s a body mod trend that’s becoming increasingly popular and quickly going global, although the look has been trendy for some time now in Asia (the doll-like look originated in Japan a few years ago) and Ukraine, where young women, mostly teenage girls, are transforming their bodies into “living dolls.” They’re sometimes called “human Barbies” because these ladies yearn to look like the actual Barbie doll, the toy typically associated with Western society’s vision of flawless female beauty with perfect proportions.

So how do these gals get all dolled up?

Well, it ain’t easy. Or quick. To achieve the flawless look, transforming into a living doll typically requires multiple surgeries and a lot of money. There are dozens of different types of body-sculpting plastic surgeries and surgical cosmetic procedures available. The “living doll” look incorporates small mouths, tiny waists, curvy hips, perky breasts, and a perfect nose, all of which can be manipulated by a surgeon’s knife. Shapely implants placed in the butt, biceps, breasts, or calves can help create the look of plastic perfection. And then, of course, there are Botox injections to smooth the skin.

In addition to rhinoplasty, other facial plastic surgeries are available to chisel the chin and make the face more heart shaped. Tummy tucks can make for a smaller-looking belly and waistline, but some Barbie doll wannabes have been known to have a rib or two removed to trim their waist size to the ultimate degree.

Giant eyes also contribute to the doll-like look. Brightly colored cosmetic contact lenses called circle lenses (or “big eye” contact lenses) can distort the size of the iris and create the illusion of larger eyes. Circle lenses come in a variety of colors and effects. They range in size from 14 to 18 mm; the larger lenses provide more dramatic visual effects, with their extra-wide neon-colored tints that cover the iris and also spill into the surrounding area of the eyes. These appearance-changing contact lenses are mainly produced in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China, where wearing them to create bigger, wider, more vibrant eyes has become trendy among young female models. These larger-than-life, colorful iris-enhancing contact lenses have become more popular and more available in the US since Lady Gaga wore them in her hit music video Bad Romance.

The transformation toward a doll-like face and figure requires not only heavy-duty plastic surgery, but in order to complete the look, hair, makeup, and clothes also come into play. Typically, hair is bleached peroxide blonde. Then, hair-straightening techniques and/or hair extensions are applied. Thick makeup with layers of foundation and other makeup products are also applied, sometimes with the aid of an accomplished makeup artist. Next, bleach the eyebrows and add on the false eyelashes. Some girls go for waxing and tanning as a final touch. Or they’ll wear playful fabric-covered elastic hair ties to enhance the dress-up look. Lastly, skimpy micro-dresses and doll-like clothing are worn to complement the new look, such as plaid playsuits and frilly high-collared blouses. That brings us full circle from the little girls who dressed up their dollies to the not-so-little girls who dress themselves up as dolls.

To maintain their doll-like figure, some women resort to fasting or liquid-only diet intervals when they’ll only have water or fruit juice for a period of time.

Meet the real-life Barbie

“Who wants to go through life just being themselves?” That’s the mantra of Valeria Lukyanova, a 27-year-old Ukrainian who has become famous worldwide as the “Living Barbie.” Valeria says she has spent $800,000 on her look. Weighing a mere 99 lbs, Valeria not only resembles the Barbie doll’s facial features, but her figure compares proportionately to the actual doll. (If Barbie were a real person, her measurements would be 39-18-33.) To offset the cost of her body construction, Valeria makes many public appearances, as her human Barbie look has become so popular that many teenagers in Ukraine are also transforming themselves into real-life Barbie dolls. And these girls are receiving the publicity they wanted, enticing the Ukraine media and getting booked on the talk show circuit because of their disturbing looks. One reporter referred to this Ukrainian phenomenon as the “Barbie flu.” Most of these girls give themselves doll-like names: Venus Angelic, for example.

Real-life Barbie…meet the real-life Ken

On the flip side, it seems as though one man, Justin Jedica of New York City, wanted to be a living Ken doll (Barbie’s classic plastic boyfriend). Justin says he’s had over 100 plastic surgeries and spent over $100,000 to acquire his muscular body and chiseled face, including 5 nose jobs, a brow lift, pectoral implants, chin work, and buttock work, among other surgeries. He’s also been injected with silicone. But when confronted regarding his human Ken doll look, Justin says his transformation was more inspired by the anime characters made famous in Japanese productions. Oh, and by the way, Justin’s made it clear that he’s totally not interested in hooking up with his counterpart, Valeria Lukyanova. So they’ll be no plastic romance between the real-life Barbie and the real-life Ken. The 2 body modification aficionados appeared on an episode of Inside Edition in February 2013, when Justin remarked that he has no desire to hook up with Valeria.

Recently, 13,000 students in Taiwan were polled about their Internet use. Nearly half of the respondents surveyed revealed that they started surfing the net before the age of 7, and some started as young as 3 years of age. Survey results found a correlation between the frequency of online social networking and the level of concern with appearance and self-image. Most people are not satisfied with their bodies and many try to improve their appearance the mainstream way, with diet and exercise. However, for those who can’t wait to change the way they look, and those whose self-image may be beyond repair, modern technology continues to offer superficial, quick-fix solutions to showcase flawless beauty in the human form.

No doubt, this latest body modification craze gives a whole new meaning to the phrases

“She’s a doll,” “What a doll face,” and “How’s my baby doll.” So the next time you hear or make any of those compliments, look twice!


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  3. Campbell A. Human ‘Ken Doll’ Justin Jedlica not interested in real-life ‘Barbie doll’ Valeria Lukyanova. Huffington Post website. November 2, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/human-ken-doll-not-interested-human-barbie-doll_n_2058025.html.
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