TIME beauty

Is the ‘Human Barbie’ Sexy? A GQ Writer On Meeting the Real-Life Doll

'Real-Life Barbie Doll' or Photoshop Hoax?
Photo showing Valeria Lukyanova. The image is most likely manipulated. Whitehotpix/ZumaPress

GQ's Michael Idov's sensitive profile reveals his surprising reaction to the young woman who looks like she stepped out of a graphic novel

The world has had a bit of a morbid fascination with the so-called Human Barbie doll Valeria Lukyanova since Youtube videos detailing her transformation went viral in 2012. And when the twenty-something Ukrainian model, a spitting image of the ageless, inhumanly proportioned fashion doll, began speaking to U.S. publications about her looks (and denying they were achieved through plastic surgery) we listened, albeit often in disgust.

And we’re still listening, thanks to a recent GQ article that tells Lukyanova’s story and reveals her contradictory beliefs about marriage, beauty and race. In the piece she sounds empowered, racist and just plain strange all at once. But perhaps the most fascinating part of the profile is the revealing way the author of the piece, GQ’s Michael Idov, describes his reaction to meeting “Barbie” in person. Here is “ideal” beauty come to fruition, and according Idov, it’s both transfixing and disturbing.

“Evolution has taught us to think of big eyes as beautiful—it’s a so-called neotenous feature, implying youth—but tweak that delicate scale just a little and you’ve got a wraith, or an insect. A living Barbie is automatically an Uncanny Valley Girl. Her beauty, though I hesitate to use the term, is pitched at the exact precipice where the male gaze curdles in on itself. 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. Except we don’t expect them to comply with this oppressive fantasy so fully. As a result, she almost throws our idea of a supervixen back in our face.”

Idov,who is the editor of GQ Russia, has quite eloquently laid out what feminists have been trying to make clear forever: a slender, doe-eyed, big-chested vixen—the “golden mean,” as Valeria so eloquently puts it— is actually pretty terrifying in real life. This doesn’t mean that women from Valeria’s home base of Odessa, Ukraine to Los Angeles will stop striving for an impossible standard of beauty, but it’s perhaps a reality check on what men really find attractive.

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