It’s no secret that curve models are on the rise in the fashion industry, and Brazilian-American Barbie Ferreira, 20, is one of the leaders in her field.
As an advocate for body acceptance, she is outspoken about her dislike of shape altering post-production on images that she appears in. Her strong presence in the industry serves as inspiration for many women who are craving proper representation in media. Her following on Instagram (@BarbieNox) grows exponentially with each week passing, letting her admirers (and any disbelievers) know that Barbie Ferreira is here to stay. We caught up with Barbie in her hometown, New York City, to chat about real vs. click bait ‘Body Positivity’ benefits of the moment to designers and consumers alike, and how she feels about being a role model.
What does the term ‘Body Positivity’ mean to you?
Body positivity and I have had a bit of a roller coaster ride kinda relationship. When I first started modeling, I used the words body positivity heavily and embraced the meaning – accepting yourself and shedding the weight on your shoulders that leave you feeling not enough. I’m sure most people can feel that way, especially young women. The way the media blasts images of fast food with flashy advertisement and in the same few minutes play a diet pill commercial – there’s a reason most young women don’t feel good about themselves. Tabloids and weird Instagrams that have airbrushed, edited pictures, do the same. I want young people to live life for themselves and not for their bodies. After a while I started realizing body positivity was becoming clickbaity. I got asked questions, like “how are you so brave?” and blah blah constantly to the point where it was comical how every interview had the same choice of words/ questions and making my body a commodity rather than asking for me, a woman who battles her own insecurities but can be so much more. It became clear to me that this was trendy because media outlets saw the spikes in clicks on online articles that had buzz words like ‘body positivity’ in them. I wasn’t seen as a normal model. I’m always asked how I dare wear a bathing suit or what I eat.
Saying “love your body!” isn’t necessarily enough.
I wanted to tell people about how I got to a place where my looks were not the downfall of my existence, how my imperfections don’t hold me back anymore. I resented it for a while but I’ve come to a place where I want people to feel positively about their body, but I don’t want it to feel like a cheap way to sell high waisted swimsuits or to get traction on Twitter.
How do you feel that this movement benefits those who work in the fashion industry?
Well, the average woman is a size 14/16 so most consumers actually can relate to curvy women. The money is there! The interest is there! It’s the fact that fat is thought as bad or less appealing. It’s this illusion the fashion industry tries to have where everyone is a size 0 and chic. Stuff, I think, is outdated. Plus, not so profitable. For young women who are modeling, even straight size models, it makes them happy to see small changes. No one wants to constantly be told to lose weight by their agents. A lot of straight size models have come up to me and been super nice, it’s usually just clients who can’t see a future in thick or not one size based casting.
What are the benefits for the general masses?
Representation is so important. In not just in body positivity, that’s just a tiny fraction. Representation of skin color, sexuality, gender expression, abilities, cultures, everything – gives people the confidence to say “I can do that too”. You can’t excel in things you aren’t given opportunities for. With the strides happening in the curve industry, I definitely feel like young women watching are owning their bodies more. I wish I had dope, young curvy women to look up to at that age, maybe I would’ve been even more enlightened by now on how to live life freely. Seeing yourself in something gives you the freedom to dream bigger, to not be limited by things you can’t change and not looking to the typical Eurocentric, able, thin, tall standard. You can be yourself and do things your own way without the fear of not fitting a stale standard.
What has been your most rewarding experience in the industry so far?
Any time I get to be in a space where previously I wouldn’t even be looked at is probably the most rewarding feeling to me. I love doing what people tell me I can’t do, especially as a plus size model. I tend to be put in a niche due to my size. I love working with amazing teams on editorials more than anything else. With editorial there is so much more freedom to express my look. Often I feel I’m made to look a little too commercial because I am bigger or they think of me as just a curve model and won’t experiment as much.
What is your dream collaboration?
I’m open to any designer who wants to incorporate stuff for us gals. Trust, it’ll look amazing on bigger bodies too.
How do you respond to critics/haters?
I try not to.
Are you comfortable being a role model for others, or do you feel pressured by it?
Yes, but I don’t think role models have to be perfect because humans aren’t. We all have our vices and flaws but how we treat others and how we carry ourselves needs to be responsible. The pressure to not step on any toes is overwhelming but I think I have a good sense of what’s okay and what’s not from listening to a lot of voices from different walks of life. I love to feel and connect with people and listen to their stories and their struggles. Keeping my mind open has helped me be the best I can be and that’s the only thing I can do.
How has your relationship with your mom helped you grow in your personal and professional life?
In everything! My mom is an incredibly hard working woman. She has been responsible for everyone in the family since she was 18 and it’s been all on her for so long. She taught me to strive to be better and to work hard at what I want. I can be lazy at times but she definitely kicks my ass until I’m up and at it.
What are three things you are grateful for at this moment?
My mother, my friends and my progress.