This woman is taking getting dolled up to a new extreme. Valeria Lukyanova, the “Living Doll,” is a Ukrainian model most famous for looking like a living, breathing Barbie. Blonde, blue-eyed, with a waist that defies human proportions, 21 years old Valeria is at the centre of a controversy.
First, does she even exist? The proportions of her body and extremely airbrushed look of her skin have some people wondering whether or not Valeria is simply a figure someone produced on Photoshop. However, videos of interviews with Valeria have caused most people to veto this theory. No doubt Valeria’s Barbie pictures have undergone airbrushing. But so have the majority of other models’ pictures, and they don’t come anywhere near attaining Valeria’s look. Or her microscopic waist.
Out comes the next theory: Did she get plastic surgery? She must have gotten plastic surgery, right? Valeria denied any allegations of going under the knife. She admits to wearing piercing blue contact lenses and applying makeup to achieve that signature Barbie look, but says that the rest of her appearance is based on “good genes.”
Dr. Anthony LaBruna, director of Manhattan plastic surgery, politely disagrees. On a segment of ABC’s Good Morning America, LaBruna said that Valeria might have had “breast enhancements to be a 38DD and cut some ribs to get an 18 inch waist, make the hips wider and change her face.”
I’ve heard beauty is pain, but cutting out ribs takes that to a whole new level.
There are of course ramifications for so much alleged plastic surgery at such a young age. At 21, Valeria still hasn’t reached physical maturity, adding a whole new list of complications to the pre-existing risks of plastic surgery.
If Valeria has indeed had plastic surgery, then she has taken Barbie’s hyperbolic standard of beauty to its ultimate limit: To be carved into a human body.
While researching this story, I noticed almost all the websites with pictures of Valeria had before and after shots. Here she is with makeup, here she is without. Here she is before plastic surgery, here she is after. Okay, fair enough. The whole controversy around Valeria is whether or not her look is “natural.”
But then I saw all the links on these websites: “Pictures of Jennifer Lawrence without makeup!” “Zooey Deschannel sans airbrushing!” “Britney Spears before Photoshop!” Basically, gaze upon the naked flesh of the famous! See these women without their Covergirl armour! Judge their “natural” faces!
My response was a resounding, “ugh.” Sometimes I wonder why we do these before and after comparisons. For many, it’s a way of seeing how they measure up to the famous. Am I as pretty as the celebs? Can I compete with their looks? The answer to this can be only vindication, or disappointment. Either one casts down Hollywood’s conception of beauty, or raises it up higher on a pedestal.
Either way we lose. Whether you say this celeb is gorgeous, or this celeb is hideous, we continue to fixate first on a women’s image and only afterwards on her personhood. Instead of focusing on Jennifer Lawrence’s amazing acting talents, we focus on whether or not she’s wearing eyeliner. Instead of valuing Zooey Deschannel’s vocal talents, we ogle her foundation free skin.
This fetishizing the female image is unhealthy. It turns beauty, an idea that is completely subjective and personal, into an impersonal, universal ideal that we value first and foremost in women. If a woman fits this universal mold, we praise her. If not, we’re critical and offer up her personality as a means of appeasement, instead of as the central feature to her individuality.
I suppose that’s how these before and after photos can benefit feminism. We can turn them on their heads to critique this image fixation. While some people use this big reveal moment to say, “oh, she’s still pretty,” feminism can use this moment to say, “she’s still a great actress, singer, scientist, etc.” Essentially, it doesn’t matter what she looks like. She’s still a person.