Last Saturday I was at the local public library with my wife and children. We’re there fairly regularly and we each go our separate ways, usually. I knew I would not be checking out any books because I already had a stack at home to get through so I headed for the periodicals. Sometimes I flip through the various newspapers and usually I will find a news magazine with an article or two of interest. As I was perusing the magazine offerings a story title on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine magazine caught my attention. It was something along the lines of “When Is It Okay to Lie?” Unfortunately the mailing label obscured the page number of the article and nothing in the contents seemed to fit so I found myself flipping through the magazine looking for the article. This was a first for me; I had never picked up O before. Just flipping through was enlightening, I can tell you. Lots of interesting worldviews being presented! In the course of my perusal, however, I came across a snippet about a woman who is trying to become a human Barbie doll. I read through it and then the rest of my family was ready to go, but it stuck with me as great blog material.
So today, not remembering the specifics of the situation, I googled “human barbie” and, much to my surprise, there are at least two women in the world who fall into this category. The one that was in O is named Blondie Bennett. (She has legally changed her name). According to a February article in Huffington Post Bennett says she is Barbie-obsessed. She has had multiple cosmetic surgeries as part of her effort to achieve her goal, including five breast augmentation surgeries and chin liposuction to contour her face more like Barbie’s. “I don’t like being human, if that makes sense… Natural is boring… I would love to be like, completely plastic,” the article quotes her as saying. Frankly, Ms. Bennett, it doesn’t make sense. The concept of wanting to be plastic is something I simply cannot wrap my mind around.
Apparently the pursuit of physical similarities to the iconic Barbie doll is not sufficient, though. Now Bennett is undergoing hypnotherapy in hopes that it will decrease her IQ. She actually wants to be brainless. “I’ve had 20 sessions and I’m already starting to feel ditzy and confused all the time,” she was quoted as telling the Daily Mail. Somehow, though, this does not come as a surprise; I cannot help but think that anyone who thinks it would be great to be plastic and brainless was experiencing feelings of ditziness long before she began hypnotherapy.
As evidence for the effectiveness of her hypnotherapy sessions, which Bennett has up to three times a week, she says she recently got lost on the way to her mother’s house–the home she grew up in–and, when picking up a friend from the airport, forgot if she was supposed to go to departures or arrivals.
Bennett is currently unemployed, though she apparently is able to make enough money to fund her surgeries and hypnotherapy. She has spent over $40,000 on the breast augmentation operations alone. India.com suggests that her income comes from men who pay her for skimpy pictures. Her pursuit of Barbie-dom began in her late teens when she was paid by toy stores to appear as Barbie. Her obsession magnified as she contemplated a life devoted to the “pursuit of looking pretty all the time and doing nothing but shopping and making oneself look more pretty,” according to India.com. She told Metro, another UK site, “I was forced to live a double life until about eight years ago when I decided to become Barbie for real and ignore what other people said.” How terrible that must have been, to have to live the life of a human being!
The other human seeking to become a human Barbie is taking a different approach. Valeria Lukyanova is a Ukrainian model. According to New York’s Daily News her goal is “to become a ‘Breatharian’ who survives off nothing but light and air.” She claims that has stopped eating and drinking water and survives only on “cosmic micro-food.” She told International Business Times, “In recent weeks I have not been hungry at all; I’m hoping it’s the final stage before I can subsist on air and light alone.”
According to the Daily News article Lukyanova first made headlines in 2012 when she underwent extensive plastic surgery to make herself look more like Barbie. At that time she reportedly stated that her goal was to become “the most perfect woman on the Internet.” Various reports state that her waist size is 20 inches or less. Lukyanova also claims that she is from another planet, that she can communicate with aliens through light and that she can accomplish time travel. Lukyanova is also married to a construction worker, who supports her “pursuits.”
Many things about Bennett and Lukyanova scream out for attention. It is difficult to suggest that the unrealistically-proportioned Barbie doll has no impact on the self images of the millions of children who play with them but it is equally difficult to suggest that the dolls are responsible for the crazy behavior of Bennett and Lukyanova.
There are a lot of questions that come to mind as I reflect on these two women. For example, what does it say about our world in general, about our stereotyped portrayals of what makes a woman beautiful, if Lukyanova believes that by abusing her body through surgeries and deprivation of food that she is somehow getting closer to becoming “the perfect woman”? What does it say about Lukyanova’s husband that he apparently encourages and supports her choices? What does it say about the plastic surgeons who have become accomplices to the ridiculous goals of these two women? Is there any limit as to what someone should be allowed to do to his or her body? (I am not suggesting that there is, but it is an interesting question to ponder). What does it say about the “therapist” that Bennett found who is willing to accept payment in exchange for helping her to become “brainless”? How could anyone truly feel that they are helping someone by aiding in such a pursuit? Doesn’t there come a point when someone–whether parent, sibling, spouse, coworker, therapist, surgeon or random blogger–needs to tell these women that what they are doing is not beautiful? Or is that even true? After all, if it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder then at the very least these two women think that what they are doing, pursuing and becoming is beautiful.
I think I am asking more questions than I am answering. That’s because everything about what these two women are doing seems wrong to me. At the same time I am not sure I am convinced that they don’t have every right to keep pursuing their own ideas of happiness and beauty–however twisted and convoluted they may be. After all, last time I checked, stupidity is still not a crime.