Queer Brazilian model and actress Barbie Ferreira has emerged as a major body positivity and queer visibility advocate in the tail end of this decade, both because of her curvaceous fashion shoots and her role as Kat Hernandez, the unapologetically sexual “fat girl” in Sam Levinson’s HBO teen drama series Euphoria.
Barbie Ferreira has since become a groundbreaking force for large-bodied queers in pop-culture. So let’s take a look at her rise and how she went from a body positivity model to one of the most intriguing characters in Sam Levinson’s Euphoria.
Social media helped launch Barbie Ferreira’s start as a body positivity model
Barbie Ferreira was born in New York City and started doing theatre at age 7. By age 10, she knew she wanted to be an actress. The larger-bodied child of a Brazilian mother, Ferreira initially experienced body dysmorphia during her early teen years. She woukd read pro-anorexia “thinspo blogs” and worried that she might not be cast because of her larger size.
Ferreira began posting images of herself on Instagram and Tumblr and at age 16, she began to send some of the images to American Apparel, eventually becoming one of the company’s curvier models. She then gained serious web notoriety as a model for American Eagle’s Aerie loungewear brand due to the campaign’s unretouched photos showing her voluptuous belly and thighs.
Her participation in both the campaign and its subsequent interview circuit landed her on TIME‘s 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016 list. Around then, she told Time magazine that she hoped to normalize the appearance of “curvy” and “plus-size” models and she also criticized high-end fashion brands for only catering to “white, cis, tall, thin people.”
“We have to be like, ‘This isn’t real life.’ There’s no reason to have these standards,” she said. “People are really sick of traditions, like thinness or whiteness. My one whole thing is: If you’re a young person, create. That’s how we’re going to change it from the ground up. Change isn’t going to happen by showing one ‘different’ model once in a campaign.”
Here’s a clip of Barbie Ferreira discussing body positivity in American Eagle’s Aerie loungewear campaign:
By 2017, her fame landed her hosting roles in Vice’s etiquette show How To Behave and Teen Vogue’s web series Body Party, a body-positive web-series where she talked to other teens, her mom and men about their relationships with their bodies. She also got a small guest-starring role on HBO’s Divorce before being cast as Kat Hernandez in Euphoria.
Barbie Ferreira’s arc as Kat Hernandez in Sam Levinson’s Euphoria involves body positivity too
In Euphoria, Barbie Ferreira plays Kat Hernandez, a sarcastic teen and “fat girl” (Ferreira’s words) who reclaims her own sense of body positivity after being humiliated twice over. When her first boyfriend dumps her for gaining weight while on vacation, Kat escapes into the online world and becomes a popular fan-fiction writer, achieving viral status after penning an imagined sex scene between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson of the boy band One Direction.
After Kat’s first sexual experience gets secretly recorded and shared online for her classmates and everyone else to see, she’s initially embarrassed. However, when she sees how many commenters find her sexy, she reinvents herself as a web-cam girl and financial dominatrix who sports a cat mask and a newfound confidence.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Barbie Ferreira says that below Kat Hernandez’s sexy online person is an insecure teen who still sees herself as an unattractive outsider. “[By becoming the object of desire she’s never been — especially in this seedy [webcam world] that’s also inherently sexy and taboo — it just all plays into her need to be anonymous online and get validation from it,”
In another interview, Ferreira said that some Euphoria viewers don’t like Kat Hernandez’s groundbreaking depiction of a larger-bodied, Latinx girl exploring her sexuality because, “People are not used to seeing bigger girls have their own life, their own shit.”
Here are some scenes of Barbie Ferreira as Kat Hernandez:
Amid the buzz surrounding the show and its unflinching depiction of teenage sexuality, Barbie Ferreira came out as queer in a July 2019 interview. She said, “I’m queer. In my private life, it’s been going on for a long time. I obviously don’t really identify as a straight woman ever in my life, but I feel like now I’m really in my queerness. I’m in LA living my L Word life. Isn’t it amazing?”
Since coming out as queer, she has worried about her queerness being co-opted as a marketing gimmick, just as some brands have done with body positivity. She says she feels conflicted over her involvement in the “capitalist schemes” surrounding body positivity in the fashion industry.
“Modeling,” she said, “felt like my physical body was a prop.” After being asked about body positivity in nearly every interview she did, she got tired of her identity being boiled down to just one physical aspect. She has since said she doesn’t want the same thing to happen with her queerness.
Barbie Ferreira currently has 1.6 million followers on Instagram, and we can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this beacon of change for the LGBTQ community, and of course, for Season 2 of Euphoria!