Valeria Lukyanova and Justin Jedlica are easy to judge. They are better known as the Human Barbie and the Human Ken, and because they’ve gone to great lengths to make themselves look like plastic dolls, it can be difficult to take them seriously. And if that wasn’t strange enough, they recently posed together for a photo shoot and ended up sort of dissing each other. Jedlica actually attacked Lukyanova’s authenticity (if that ain’t the pot calling the kettle black), claiming that because she uses “stage makeup” and wears “extensions” she’s not as interesting as someone like him, who is truly dedicated to the cause, having invested $150,000 in plastic surgeries.
But let’s forget for a moment the craziness therein, and consider what we’re looking at here. Essentially, we’re looking at two people who take pop culture and contemporary ideals of beauty very, very seriously. The journalist behind Lukyanova’s GQ interview explained it well: “Her features are the features we men playfully ascribe to ideal women; it’s how we draw them in manga and comics and video games.”Lukyanova does what women everywhere do — she takes an ideal of beauty and aspires to it. Like many of us, she plays dress-up and puts on a face that she’s comfortable with… and it’s not the one she wakes up with in the morning. That’s, actually, quite typical.”
And Jedlica, like plenty of men with the resources and desire, has surgically altered his look to make himself more attractive (by his own standards and by standards set in place by others). You could say that these two are like a fun house mirror of sorts — the image is wonky, but it represents and reflects something very real. If Jedlica and Lukyanova seem ridiculous, it’s probably a reflection of the ridiculous standards of beauty (to which we all subscribe, in some way) that have less to do with the human body and more to do with a plastic mold. The fact that they have been nicknamed for two cultural icons with which we are all familiar speaks volumes.
There is plenty we can learn from Human Barbie and Human Ken. As difficult as it may be to admit, they are products of an environment in which we all participate on some level. There’s nothing wrong with loving, or appreciating beautiful people, celebrities, and fashion movements. But when our ideals of beauty are limited (and Lupita Nyong’o and other women of color in the industry have proven that this is still very much an issue), or we only celebrate a particularly impossible ideal, we have to admit that we’ve helped create two monsters — two dolls. Such a dangerous creation should open up our eyes about the messages we are clearly sending out to the world.