“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world…” The toy industry was completely changed on March 9, 1959 when Ruth Handler and the Mattel toy company introduced the first Barbie doll. Since then, Barbie has become an icon in both the world of dolls and fashion as almost every little girl in the United States has had a Barbie at some point over the last 50 years. And, while Barbie has been incredibly popular, the doll has also seen its fair share of criticism over the last few decades.
Much of the criticism surrounding Barbie stems from the idea that the doll creates a negative and impossible standard of beauty for young girls to obtain with her tiny waist, oversized bust, long hair and delicate features. To others, however, Barbie is more than just a doll and is something to aspire to regardless of the physical, emotional and financial costs. These women have happily accepted the Barbie challenge.
While naturally looking like Barbie is impossible, there are a few women around the world who have pulled out all the stops to look like real life Barbie dolls. Who are they and just how far have they gone? Known as human Barbies and relying on everything from makeup, costumes and contact lenses to plastic surgery and extreme diets, let’s take a look at these living Barbie dolls when they’re all dolled up and when they’re au natural!
I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world…
#13 – Valeria Lukyanova (Before Barbie)
It’s only fitting to start our list with one of the most famous real-life Barbie dolls in the world—Valeria Lukyanova. Born in the Ukraine in 1985, Lukyanova had a large doll collection as a child that inspired her desire to become a standard of beauty and a pageant queen. At 22 years old, the blonde-haired and green-eyed model entered the 2007 World Wide Beauty Contest and beat out 300 other contestants to take the title as the “Miss Diamond Crown of the World,” which launched her reputation as a Barbie lookalike.
After winning Miss Diamond Crown, Lukyanova landed dozens of photo sessions and interviews throughout Russia on websites like Jezebel to promote her Barbie doll beauty and sexy slim figure. With her career officially launched as a model, the Russian pageant queen saw her fame and reputation as a “living Barbie” skyrocket after her first professional photoshoot with Sebastian Faena debuted in V magazine. Though praised for her “almost inhuman beauty” on websites and media outlets around the world, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Lukyanova.
#12 – Valeria Lukyanova (The Human Barbie)
As Lukyanova’s pictures flooded the internet, many critics argued that they were Photo-shopped to enhance her slim figure and Barbie doll appearance to secure her place in the spotlight. Taking matters into her own hands, the 30-year-old Lukyanova set the record straight with YouTube videos and extensive interviews on Russian television channels talking about her looks as well as the inspiration behind taking her Barbie reputation a step further into full Barbie mode. So what exactly did she do?
Denying any claims that she had a few ribs removed to make her waist smaller, Lukyanova took to the airwaves in 2012 and again in 2013 admitting that the only operation she has ever had was a breast augmentation to enhance her Barbie look. As for her tiny 18-inch waist and 5’7” tall, 97-pound frame, Lukyanova practices a strict raw vegetarian liquid diet and maintains her figure with daily workouts and occasional cleanses where she gives up food entirely in an attempt to live only on light and air.
#11 – Valeria Lukyanova (Without Makeup)
Looking completely different but just as beautiful without all of the extra makeup and blue contact lenses to mask her natural green eyes, Lukyanova says that she spends an hour each morning on her makeup to perfect her Barbie face and another five hours at the gym. But how long does she intend to maintain her living Barbie reputation? Lukyanova admits that, while looking like Barbie has been her lifelong goal, she has no intention of doing it the rest of her life.
Continuing to model and make special appearances around the globe, Lukyanova has turned her attention to acting, singing and writing over the last few years under the name Amatue. Making her debut as an opera singer and composer with the release of her 2010 album Sun in the Eyes, Lukyanova enjoyed minimal success behind the microphone but that didn’t stop her from publishing her book Astral Travel Amatue in 2012 or sharing her life story in the 2013 documentary Space Barbie. And, with millions of followers on social media, it’s safe to say this Russian Barbie isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
#10 – Lhouraii Li (Human Barbie)
Making her way around the internet from her native England to the United States as the Barbie of Bradford, the 24-year-old nail technician Lhouraii Li is the next real-life Barbie to make our list. Inspired by Japanese fashion, unicorns, fairies, Disney princesses and Barbie herself, Li never leaves the house without makeup and says that she spends an average of four hours every day using Japanese makeup techniques, contact lenses and over a dozen pairs of false eyelashes to transform herself into a living doll.
While Barbie is one of her favorite and most frequent looks, Li models herself after a variety of characters and says the basis of each look is her makeup. So how does she do it? Shaving her eyebrows and drawing them higher on her face to look more doll-like, Li also uses circle contact lenses to make her eyes appear larger. When asked if her routine ever gets old, she says, “It’s not a chore to do. People get up and watch television, I get up and do my makeup and I find it just as entertaining.”
#9 – Lhouraii Li (Without Most Makeup)
It hasn’t always been pretty pink princesses, fairies, unicorns and Barbie dolls for Li who admitted, “I was goth at one point. And then that got a lot of stares and more hate than this.” Realizing that she had nothing to lose and finally embracing herself for who she is, Li said “screw it” and started dressing even crazier than before. Pictured here on her Tumblr blog with minimal makeup, this is as close to going completely natural as Li will ever dare.
Refusing to enhance her figure or her look with plastic surgery, Li uses her talents as an artist and her love of Japanese anime to contour her makeup and transform her face in front of thousands of fans on YouTube. As for her critics, Li has toughened up over the years and says, “Obviously some people say bad things but I kind of switch off from it a lot—I’ll look around and everyone will just be staring at me. People sing ‘I’m a Barbie girl’ and I’ll finish it.”
#8 – Jenny Lee (Human Barbie)
One of the original human Barbie dolls to make our list is Jenny Lee who, unlike Valeria Lukyanova and Lhouraii Li, is open about her addiction to plastic surgery and her journey to becoming a real-life Barbie. First making waves on television in 2004 when she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Texas native and mother of two admitted that she was obsessed with her looks and had already gone under the knife 26 times by the age of 28 to change her appearance.
Appearing stick thin with high eyebrows and oversized lips thanks to dozens of surgeries and Botox injections, Oprah even told Lee that she looked like Barbie but not even that was enough. Lee said that she had undergone two breast implants, three breast lifts, multiple liposuctions and lip implants but she still didn’t like her appearance. “I’m trying very hard to find acceptance. But, when I look at my reflection, I still don’t like what I see.”
#7 – Jenny Lee (Today)
Shortly after her 2004 appearance on Oprah, Lee fell out of the spotlight and briefly gave up plastic surgery to focus on motherhood but her attempt to turn over a new leaf of self-acceptance was short-lived. Eventually caving under the pressure and going under the knife for her fourth rhinoplasty, Lee shocked the world in 2013 when she returned on an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? looking much different after 33 more procedures and a noticeable amount of weight gain caused by her recent diagnosis with fibromyalgia.
With her surgery count hovering at 60 and her obsession as strong as ever, Lee admits that she’s had to come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer in control of her body thanks to the constant pain caused by her fibromyalgia. Still battling self-esteem issues especially after her recent weight gain, Lee may finally be happy with her last rhinoplasty but told Oprah that she looks back at her 20s with regret and says, “Are you kidding me? …I was really thin, but I was the healthiest and the happiest at that time, and I miss those days.”
#6 – Anastasiya Shpagina (Human Anime Doll)
Once referred to as “the new Barbie” and hailing from the same Ukrainian town as Valeria Lukyanova, Anastasiya Shpagina isn’t trying to look like a Barbie doll but is striving to become a real-life Japanese anime character. Now 23 years old and living by the tagline “I am not like a doll, a doll is like me…,” Shpagina stands at 5’2” tall and weighs 85 pounds with bright red hair and pale skin that have contributed to her popularity as a real-life anime character with over 180,000 fans on Facebook alone.
Getting into character—whether it’s Barbie or anime—is not easy for Shpagina who spends two hours each morning putting on makeup with an hour dedicated solely to creating her iconic wide-eyed look. In an interview with The Daily Mail, the young hairdresser and makeup artist said that she would like to go under the knife to widen her eyes in order to save time with her routine but, while the procedure is common in Japan, it isn’t yet offered in the Ukraine. She also says that she’d like to have her waist reduced as well but has to rely on diet and exercise for now.
#5 – Anastasiya Shpagina (Without Makeup)
Recently branching out and proving her talents beyond her signature Japanese anime style, Shpagina has built quite the following on YouTube after posting a series of videos showing off her makeup tips and tricks. In this past month, she has uploaded widely popular tutorials on how to use makeup to transform her face to look like the Batman villain Harley Quinn as well as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and even Justin Bieber.
Though rarely seen in public without her anime makeup and bright hair, Shpagina has toned down her look as of late thanks to her YouTube tutorials where she transforms herself from start to finish in front of the camera. Admitting that she looks up to fellow Barbie girl and friend Valeria Lukyanova for tips of the trade, it’s undeniable that Shpagina is one of the most popular real-life Barbie dolls today earning an estimated $500,000 each year from her YouTube videos alone.
#4 – Alina Kovalevskaya (Human Barbie)
Attempting to take the crown from Valeria Lukyanova as the human Barbie in 2014, Alina Kovalevskaya joins the ranks of Ukrainian Barbie lookalikes on our list. Once looking up to her fellow Odessa native and friend, Kovalevskaya and Lukyanova had a falling out after the 21-year-old Barbie girl attempted to steal the coveted title and said, “I look like a doll. I like big eyes, little nose, small plump lips. I love long hair. My hair is a meter long.”
First making the rounds on the internet in 2014, the world had the same questions for Kovalevskaya as they did for Lukyanova about opting for plastic surgery to secure her place as the newest human Barbie. Arguing that she’s never been under the knife and isn’t worried about having Barbie’s actual (and impossible) proportions, Kovalevskaya says that she’s achieved her Barbie look naturally by exercising regularly, avoiding the sun and using makeup to do the rest.
#3 – Alina Kovalevskaya (Without Makeup)
Beautiful with naturally big eyes even without all those layers of makeup, Kovalevskaya isn’t solely focused on living the Barbie life as she is also intent on finishing her psychology degree, which she has obviously put to use in her relationship with Lukyanova. After their last conversation, Kovalevskaya said, “I have had certain misunderstandings with her after which we ceased to communicate. I realized she is not a person with whom I would like to talk to or even be friends.”
Despite the public disagreement with her former friend and role model, that hasn’t stopped Kovalevskaya from becoming one of the most popular human Barbie lookalikes in the world. With thousands of followers on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook in addition to her work as a model, the 21-year-old Barbie girl has followed in Anastasiya Shpagina’s footsteps and joined the world of YouTube where her own makeup tutorials are growing with anywhere between 5,000 and 15,000 views at a time.
#2 – Lolita Richi (Human Barbie)
Ending our list with the youngest human Barbie in the world brings us to yet another Ukrainian, 18-year-old Lolita Richi. Making headlines at the age of 16 when she joined the ranks of living dolls, Richi showcased her 5’4” Barbie doll frame with a 20-inch waist and a 32-F bra size that left people around the world scratching their heads in amazement. Arguing that she’s never had plastic surgery and doesn’t follow any specific diet, Richi claims it’s all the result of good genes!
Known for her overconfidence and arrogance in the Barbie world, the former tomboy shocked her family and friends when she made her grand debut as the wide-eyed, expressionless and delicate Barbie. She even showed some of her sass when she was first interviewed by The Daily Mail in 2014 when she said, “I think I’ve achieved this [Human Barbie] image better than anyone else. I’m the ultimate vamp woman. I haven’t even heard of Valeria Lukyanova.” Talk about a low blow to Barbie!
#1 – Lolita Richi (Without Makeup)
Rarely seen without makeup these days, Richi said she never imagined how much her life would change in her teens although she has the full support of her mom who takes most of her photos. “I never thought about playing with dolls when I was younger. I was always outside playing with the boys.” A complete turnaround from having no interest in her appearance as a young girl, Richi says “People have openly told me that they’re jealous of me and how good I look. All of the boys at school fancy me as well, but I don’t like any of them.”
So what inspired her Barbie transformation? Richi wanted to look perfect and used her petite frame and natural beauty to do exactly that by adding push-up bras, makeup, colored contact lenses and her mom’s wigs to create her doll-like character. Now one of the best known real-life Barbie dolls in the world, Richi’s transformation has been incredibly successful with thousands of followers on social media sites around the world as well as popular YouTube videos where viewers tune in to see her tips, tricks and latest looks.