I had heard about human dolls in the media--young women from all over the world who transformed themselves through body modification and/or makeup or just old-fashioned Photoshop to garner online followings.
The prominence of Lolita imagery really stood out to me when I was wandering around the Akiba neighborhood in Tokyo a few years ago. The walls of mega-stores were lined with pictures of Japanese girl groups in uniforms and with their hair in ringlets. On the first floor, men browsed anime porn; upstairs were cutesy sex toys and action figures; the top floors were devoted to cosplay and endless racks of doll and maid costumes.
Here in the states, we sensationalize Disney princesses coming of age, so it's clear the infantilization of female sexuality is not limited to Japan alone. It just took getting it shoved down my throat in Akiba for me to give it much thought.
I got inspired to watch Space Barbie, a documentary on the most predominant figure of the human-doll trend, Valeria Lukyanova, the human Barbie.
Working in holistic health, I tend to overhear a lot of new age spiritual "woo woo" ideas through people I've met at work or at events. It’s easy to look at this woman and scoff at her because of the way she looks, but some of the ideas she spouts in Space Barbie are not so different from ideas coming from respected new-age spiritual leaders.
Does that make her seem less cuckoo to people? No, but her case is a fascinating study of how much of our perceptions are based on looks. Valeria or Amatue (the spiritual name she often goes by) claims her doll-like appearance garners attention for her spiritual message, even though, paradoxically, all anyone would care about is her doll-like appearance, her message falling on deaf ears.
Valeria claims that she has refined feminine features that make people think of Barbie, but the influence of amine imagery on all of these women is clear. In Akiba, there's nothing sexier than looking like a modest anime Lolita, and relating refined femininity to a doll demonstrates the same kind of infantilization. It may seem like a slightly creepy way of looking at femininity (hey, to each their own), but it ultimately led me to create the most unintentionally horrifying costume of my life.
Remember me? I got rid of my eyebrows.
I added some Frederic Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Cream to my unwashed hair and straightened it with a flat iron.
I could have just stopped here because I was freaking my friend out so much at this point, she didn't want to take my picture.
Moving on, I painted around my eyes with Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo in Too Cool. It has a creamy, smudgy texture so I applied Ben Nye's Super White Powder to set in the white pigment of this reverse-panda look.
I used bareMinerals Warmth All-Over Face Color to cover the space between my cheekbones and jawline to create the appearance of a smaller jawline. I also contoured with the same brush along the sides and tip of my nose
Using a light brown eyeshadow, I created small eyebrows that turned up subtly towards the middle of my face, creating a somewhat concerned look which I assumed would juxtapose nicely with a dead-eye Barbie gaze.
I used an old, slightly dried-out liquid eyeliner pen to trace the shape I wanted around my eyes, and it bled into the white makeup underneath, creating the shadow effect you see in the crease of my eyes.
I went over my lash line with a newer, wetter liquid eyeliner pen to create a darker sharper line and connected it with another line beneath my lover lash line, allowing the white color to peak out to create an exaggerated cartoon eye look.
I used Revlon Photoready Concealer to make my bottom lip appear smaller and more doll-like.
I popped in some colored contacts I bought on the street (don't do that), and prayed to Amatue I wouldn't end up with pinkeye.
My friend uses this laser light projector so that she can drift off into sleep pretending that she's Sandra Bullock lost out in space with George Clooney.
Having twinkling lights shined in my face paired with bootleg contact lenses really disconnected me from what was going on allowing me to look confused and lifeless, my ultimate goal for perfecting the human doll look.
The selfie is of course the true artistic form of expression and communication for a human doll, so I took some quickly, blinding me further.
I'm not sure I will be able to take this look out to a party on Halloween as I was only was to keep myself together for about 10 minutes before the lights and bootleg contacts and five pounds of makeup initiated a histamine reaction causing me to tear the makeup from my face as fast as humanly possible in a haze of coughing and sneezing.
However brief my foray into human-dollhood was, the most important part was accomplished: encapsulating the imagery forever on the internet.