(Courtesy of V Magazine)She's been called the "Human Barbie" by websites and magazines the world over, and Valeria Lukyanova, the Russian model who appears to be shaped by Mattel, has done her darnedest to live up to the name--possibly manipulating the public in the process.
Meet the Human Barbie
Lukyanova, a YouTube sensation whose videos have been viewed more than 4 million times, claims that her doll-like "perfect" face and figure are the result of regular ol' genetics and some makeup, that she's been "endowed by nature with extraordinary external data." But--according to plastic surgery experts and websites debunking Lukyanova's look as nowhere close to real--nature isn't that mysterious.
"This girl is a fraud," writes an anonymous user on the website, TheDirty.com. "She had been badly Photoshopping her photos since the beginning of her time online."
The unverified claim goes on to compare Lukyanova's YouTube videos with her recent photo shoot for V Magazine. In the photo shoot she looks more plastic than in a recent video where Lukyanova talks about the fragility of her tiny neck. (Those are the kinds of topics a real doll tackles.)
Other websites have posted (alleged) photos of the viral star looking "normal and healthy," with fuller cheeks and rounder eyes, raising questions about the role of plastic surgery in her transformation.
Considered a pioneer in the so-called "living doll" movement--a YouTube-based beauty trend popularized in recent months--Lukyanova claims her haunting facial features are a product of skilled makeup artistry. Suspect as that may sound, we've come a long way since false eyelashes and nose shading were our finest makeup illusions. (See YouTube chameleon Promise Phan for proof.) V magazine, which contacted Lukyanova through an anonymous Ukrainian source, claims that Lukyanova's doll-shaped eyes are enhanced "through makeup tricks and contact lenses."
Incredible make-up transformations
"Judging from the available photos and especially from the video of the makeup transformation, most likely Lukyanova has not had any significant plastic surgery on her face," Dr. Boris Ackerman, a California-based Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who has not treated the model, tells Yahoo! Shine. "She might have had some lip injections, but the remarkable Barbie like appearance of her face is due to theatrical make up application and facial muscle training to achieve the 'Barbie' appearance."
Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, Leading Facial Plastic Surgeon and Professor at Boston University, has a different opinion. He wouldn't be surprised if Lukyanova had cosmetic surgery on her nose, as well as cheek implants and jaw narrowing.
The Ukraine's disturbing "Barbie" trend
"I have had requests from patients to have features of their face look like Barbie," says Spiegel, who has not treated Lukyanova. "They ask to have their nose, lips and jaw done to resemble the doll."
Both Speigel and Ackerman believe the living doll had some work on her body to achieve her shocking proportions. "She is so slender that her breasts are unlikely to be natural," Spiegel tells Shine. "She may well of had breast augmentation or rib removal to get her narrow waist line."Valeria's home-made video, minus the doll eyes. (Youtube)
But Lukyanova fiercely denies having had plastic surgery. As for the retouching claims, Ackerman isn't surprised. "Some of the photos are obviously image manipulated/fake," he says.
V Magazine didn't respond to Yahoo! Shine's request for comment and they have not confirmed whether Valeria's photos were retouched. It wouldn't be all that shocking if they were. You don't have to aspire to be Barbie to merit a bit of polishing in post-production. Retouching is so common in magazine spreads today that images without retouching actually make headlines.
In her interview with the magazine (for their "Girl Power" issue, really!), Lukyanova shrugs off claims of surgery and retouching.
"Many people say bad things about people who want to perfect themselves," she says. "It's hard work, but they dismiss it as something done by surgeons or computer artists. This is how they justify not wanting to strive for self-improvement. It's how they explain their continued inaction. It's just an excuse."
The fetish to become a "Human Barbie" dates back to the early, cruder days of plastic surgery, when infatuations with the iconic doll lent themselves to episodes of Sally Jesse Raphael and televised investigations into body dysmorphia.
With Lukyanova serving as today's model for this strange, disconnected version of beauty, the Human Barbie has become more lifelike for a doll and less lifelike for a person.
Lukyanova admits to V Magazine, she "plays along with people's perceptions."
Her website, a shrine to her obsession with new age music and "astral projection," reveals a preoccupation with her Barbie-like alter-ego (she's named her Amatue) that goes beyond the pursuit of outer-beauty.
In a recent blog post, written in Russian, she hints at the dual personalities she struggles with being both doll and human.
"I sometimes think that our collaboration has exhausted itself, and I have to let her go," she writes. "I don't want to do it. I feel incredibly sad. She's the only one who's been with me all this time and has not left me but I feel that she will soon go away."
It's unclear if she's referring to retiring her "living doll" alter ego, or the reverse. Perhaps her outer-doll has muscled out her inner-human. What's clear to us, after spending perhaps far too much time thinking about all this, is that surgical or digital explanations are not enough to explain Valeria's curious, and possibly deeply sad, condition.