What's up with the Barbie epidemic?

These young women are altering their appearances to look like plastic dolls. Cosmo investigates this disturbing trend, started by a 21-year-old Ukrainian model, that experts are now dubbing the 'Barbie flu'.

These young women are altering their appearances to look like plastic dolls. Cosmo investigates this disturbing trend, started by a 21-year-old Ukrainian model, that experts are now dubbing the 'Barbie flu'.

Most of us grew up playing with Barbie dolls and we all thought she was pretty darn perfect with her waist-length hair, hour-glass figure and cute boyfriend in tow. But it seems some women have taken their Barbie obsession to a whole new level by emulating the Mattel toy, in real life. 21-year-old model, Valeria Lukyanova, started a trend-and became an Internet sensation- with her doll-like features, long blonde hair, and shockingly tiny 18-inch waist. Known as the 'Human Barbie', she claims to be the most famous woman on the Russian language Internet.

Must-read: Human Barbie opens up to V magazine

When photos of the Ukrainian-based Valeria first stormed the Internet early this year, many doubted her existence and were convinced she was a computer generated image. She then uploaded a video of how she transforms into the real-life doll every morning. While there have been various allegations of cosmetic alterations, Valeria denies it all, attributing her special looks to her "good genes that run in the family". She does, however, admit to bleaching her hair and getting a breast enlargement procedure a few years ago. The rest, she claims, is all about optical illusion with the use of make-up, especially in creating the Disney princess-like large eyes and sculpted face. Valeria reportedly spends three hours getting ready to leave the house everyday. And what about that super tiny waist? She swears by liquid food-only water, juices and smoothies. She doesn't drink alcohol and goes to the gym regularly.

Valeria LukyanovaValeria LukyanovaIt's not surprising that despite her popularity on the Internet (500,000 Facebook fans and over 16 million views on YouTube), Valeria has received severe backlash from bloggers and experts who have posted negative comments calling her fake, unreal, and a dangerous role model for impressionable young women.

In a recent photoshoot and interview with V Magazine, Valeria dismissed the negativity saying that every goodlooking woman with fine features and a slim figure "looks like a doll".

"I won't deny that I play along with people's perceptions. I'm amused by the reactions. I don't take it seriously." Soon after the article, LA-based psychologist, Dr. Seth Meyers released a report saying, "The interview and photos suggest a woman who finds her authentic self to be empty and uninspiring, causing her to live in a fantasy world of her own making."

Meyers explains that the problem lies in the fact that Valeria's appearance piques the fantasies of men, furthering the unhealthy concept of tiny waistlines and big breasts in women, to which real women can't, and shouldn't have to measure up.

What's worrying is that despite the obvious physical and psychological harmful effects of such a lifestyle, Valeria's online fame has triggered a bigger trend for girls across the globe to turn themselves into human dolls.

15-year-old 'living doll' Venus Palermo has over 30 million YouTube fans and lives like a doll every day. And Anastasiya Shpagina, 19, wakes up at 5am every morning to apply make-up to look like her favourite Japanese cartoon characters. She survives mainly on melon to maintain her tiny proportions.

Anastasiya and Valeria claim to be spiritual twins, and document their time spent together, while Dakota Rose from San Francisco uses YouTube to teach others how to re-create her baby-doll appearance.

Even international star and rapper, Nicki Minaj has a Barbie alter-ego when she performs, called Harajuku Barbie! What's next?!

British-born actress Katrina Kaif, whose face will now adorn Barbie dolls, says contrary to what people believe her Barbie is not an Indian counterpart of the international brand. She also feels that ... more 
British-born actress Katrina Kaif, whose face will now adorn Barbie dolls, says contrary to what people believe her Barbie is not an Indian counterpart of the international brand. She also feels that in many ways it's an endorsement of how kids connect with her. less 
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Yahoo Lifestyle
Tue 7 Jun, 2011 4:52 PM IST