— Barbie’s not just a doll.
In Galia Slayen’s hands, the iconic blond plaything has morphed into a life-size representation of what an eating disorder looks like.
Four years ago, Slayen, then a student at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore., built what she believed to be a life-size version of the doll she played with as a child as part of the first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
“I was at a friend’s house and her mom’s an artist so there were all these art supplies around,” Slayen told TODAY.com. “She helped with the actual proportions.”
Slayen brought the life-sized doll to the Today studios Monday to show off her handiwork. The Barbie stands about 6 feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist and 33" hips. She is made of wood, chicken wire and papier mache, and is dressed in a size 00 skirt that was a remnant from Slayen’s one-year bout with anorexia.
“I’m not blaming Barbie [for my illness] — she’s one small factor, an environmental factor,” Slayen said. “I’m blond and blue-eyed and I figured that was what I was supposed to look like. She was my idol. It impacted the way I looked at myself.”
The goal in creating Barbie’s likeness was to start conversation. “Talking about eating disorders is taboo to many people, and this made people talk about it,” Slayen said. “It’s a shocking image. A lot of people have seen it, and it’s started debates,” she said, particularly after she wrote about it for the Huffington Post. “Her proportions are not 100 percent correct, but her look is not invalid.”
“As a pop-cultural icon, Barbie is often used as art to express one’s own personal opinions and views,” a Mattel spokesperson said in an email. “Girls see female body images everywhere today and it’s critical that parents and caregivers provide perspective on what they are seeing. It’s important to remember that Barbie is a doll who stands 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7.25 ounces — she was never modeled on the proportions of a real person.”
Slayen introduced her Barbie to her college, Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., at its first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year.
At the school, there were different activities for each day of the week, including covering mirrors with pictures, facts and information on eating disorders, something Slayen had done at her high school. However, “there were just eight mirrors in my high school. There were over 300 in my college,” she said with a sigh.