March 2024

Barbie's world

From teenage Tumblr darling to young Hollywood star, Barbie Ferreira — who found fame through breakout roles in Euphoria and Nope — is only just hitting her stride. Courtney Thompson chats to Ferreira about how a weird theatre kid from Queens created the career of her dreams



InStyle: How are you going?

Barbie Ferreira: I’m great. How are you?

Good, thank you. Are you in Los Angeles?

Yes, yes I am. I grew up in New York and New Jersey, and then I moved to LA when I started acting. I love it. I have a lot of animals, and I just really stay at home, in a robe, walking around my garden. It’s very much my fantasy of what my life would be.

How many animals do you have?

I have three, which is far too many for one woman. I have two cats and a dog, and then I have my little backyard animals just kind of crawling around.

TOP: NORMA KAMALI top and bottoms, $530.721 (sold as a set), DAVID YURMAN earrings, $8182.74 TOP LEFT: JENNY BIRD earrings, $110, AGMES necklace, $1789, and cuffs, $607 (top), and $1011 TOP RIGHT: BCHIAPARELLI dress, POA, and bracelet, $5222.71, BULGARI rings $3330 (top), and $7500, ASOS tights, $16 BOTTOM GRACE LING top, $906.36, and skirt, $1989.40, JENNY BIRD earrings, $211.99

Do you think it was because you grew up in an urban environment that you love LA’s sunshine and space?

Yes, one-hundred-thousand per cent. I know people who are from small towns or more rural areas who are like, “LA, it’s too much for me.” But it’s so peaceful. Like, as peaceful as I want, with access to things to do. It’s a perfect medium for me. It was so fun and crazy growing up in New York – I was always getting into antics and randomly finding myself in really cool situations. That’s very much how I grew up and very much how my career started, too. But I was younger then, and even though I am only 27, I feel like I have a very old soul. I love rest, and it feels very restful when I’m in LA.

Growing up, your dad wasn’t really in the picture. Is that right?

No, it was all women.

Do you talk to him now?

No, no. My dad and I have been estranged. I did this project last year, Bob Trevino Likes It, it’s going to SXSW. Tracie Laymon – the writer and director, who I love – it’s her life story, and I connected to it so much. I think people can probably tell how I feel about my own father issues through that movie. It’s also so wholesome and hopeful. Bob Trevino was me and Tracie collabing on daddy issues, but I feel like that was such a healing moment, and I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s a sweet movie, a tear-jerker for sure. It lingers with you long after, which I love. Every time I watch it – I’ve seen it twice now; I try not to watch it too much because I get too emotional – it rips my heart out.

How did growing up with only women inform your sense of self?

I think about this all the time because I truly had no male presence in my life. My family is full of very loud, funny, beautiful women. Everything that’s scary to people about women – being overtly confident, overtly loud, funny, beautiful, gorgeous – I grew up surrounded by those kinds of women. And so I never censored myself or made myself smaller for men. I never knew how to straddle the male ego because I didn’t have these masculine figures in my life. I always tell people, “I don’t know anything about men.”

Did you have a moment when that clicked for you?

Definitely when school started, because I was a little too much. I’m also an only child, so I love to be a one-woman show. It worked really well for me with my modelling career and when I was a performer: my big personality, my thoughts, my loud laugh, everything about it worked in my favour, but it didn’t in real life as a kid trying to fit in. So the downside is that it was hard for me to make friends. It was hard for me to fit in. I felt very different from everyone because I was kind of a kooky only child living in my imagination, watching horror movies all the time, being weird, and I didn’t really know how to interact with people other than adults. I remember wishing I was quieter and more mysterious as a kid ’cause I just wanted to be like everyone else. Thankfully I’m not, because I wouldn’t be where I am now. People who are irritated by my presence aren’t my people. It takes a while to learn that.

“If you’ve got a problem with it, that’s your problem, not mine. Thanks and goodbye.”

Absolutely. I’ve been kicked out of Ubers because of my voice. An Uber driver once told me, “Your laugh is irritating me, please leave.”

That’s fucked up. You can’t do that!

Isn’t that hilarious? I think people either enjoy a person who is kooky or not. I love freaks – I only hang out with freaky people, so it works perfectly in my life.

I first knew of you through Tumblr, but there’d be fans who only know you through Euphoria. Do you find that?

I was on Tumblr from 13 to 17 or 18; it’s interesting to see people have been following me through all these stages of my life. It’s really cool. I look back on Tumblr so fondly: all the American Apparel [ads in 2013], and all the art projects that I was part of – I’m so proud of them.

“My family is full of VERY LOUD, funny, BEAUTIFUL women.”

What was your relationship to social media and the internet?

Well, at the time, I was a kid. I had started high school, and it was a typical Tumblr blog of DSLR pics, and then it evolved into, like, a pale grunge blog, which was my thing at the time. It was very ‘of the era’. This wasn’t the age of the influencer yet, so it was almost like a secret, like, “This is my private collection of inspirations and life.” A lot of my selfies – a lot of my little Photo Booth sessions, playing with light in my room and putting on purple lipstick and doing all the things – started going around Tumblr. It was really cool because I wasn’t a model, and at the time, Tumblr was dominated by really specific-looking people, and a lot of people responded to the way I looked. I don’t think I ever thought of myself as pretty, so it was the first time I felt like I was creatively cool and not weird, and people had the same interests as me. I still have friends from Tumblr – we’ve been friends for 12 years – they’ve evolved into these incredible artists. And the kids now think of Tumblr as ‘vintage’. I’ve literally had someone say “vintage Tumblr” to me. Another person told me my voice is nostalgic.

And you’re like, “Sir, I am 27.” From there, your profile grew and you became central to the body positivity and body neutrality movement. You were in campaigns and named in Time’s “30 Most Influential Teens” list. But you were only 16. That feels like a lot of pressure for a young girl to represent so much. Did you feel that pressure?

At the time I totally did, but the things I was doing were also for myself because I was so insecure. I look at my first American Apparel ad now, and I’m like, I looked like a normal, pretty, thin 16-year-old girl. But [I thought of myself as] a humongous, giant, plus-size model, because that’s how people would talk to me. I thought I was changing these things. I felt like I was at war with beauty. I was on a mission, you know? I wanted to pursue my dreams so much that I couldn’t let my insecurity get in the way of it. And if no-one else had done it, I was going to have to be the first to do it. I was going to change the world. It was very powerful to me, but in reality, it was pretty minimal. I was a slightly chubby version of what people usually put up. When I left modelling, I made a concerted effort to not focus on my body unless it is relevant to what I’m doing, because I think the next step to normalising everything is just to realise that people exist in different bodies. It’s not radical to be a bigger person, it’s not radical to be a small person – it’s just human. My new tactic is just trying not to really engage in that conversation. I pick roles that don’t focus on just my body. Especially after doing a couple of roles where that was a thing – which I loved and it meant a lot to me – but to expand my horizons and just be an actress, not an actress who played the Big Girl.

TOP LEFT: GRACE LING dress, $4129.88 TOP RIGHT: WOLFORD bodysuit, $452.96, and tights, $99.81, MALONE SOULIER shoes, $1297.65, THE FRANKIE SHOP coat, $1363.69, CHOPARD earrings, and necklace, POA; BOTTOM LEFT: DIESEL jumper, $690.37, PRETTIES bodysuit, $176.43, UNIQLO socks, $4.95, MIU MIU shoes, $1700, ACNE STUDIOS bracelet, $540 BOTTOM RIGHT SKIMS briefs, $52.20, LEVANTE tights, $36.95, JIMMY CHOO shoes, $1550, BOTTEGA VENETA bag, POA, MONTBLANC watch, POA, ; BOTTOM BOTTEGA VENETA coat, $75,551.56, SKIMS bodysuit, $104.32, LEVANTE tights, $36.95

HAIR Sylvia Wheeler MAKEUP Lilly Keys MANICURE Yoko Sakakura CREATIVE DIRECTOR ON SET Rachel Wayman

Totally. With a character like Euphoria’s Kat, for instance, all the conversations you’re having about her are also about your body, because it’s written into her character.

I remember reading the script and being like, “I need to be this person, I need to be Kat.” But it’s different because Kat’s whole bit wasn’t that she was bigger than the other girls; it’s more she has this really traumatic event happen when her first time having sex is published on the internet. To me, that was always the main thing, that’s where all of her arc comes from: the trauma and the vulnerability and the trust being broken and the reinventing of oneself to make an armour, which I can relate to in a lot of ways. Kat’s very special to me. Her struggles were so real and I loved doing it. If there’s a role that makes a lot of sense and it has to do with my body, it’s not off the cards. I just think people are kind of lazy with it sometimes, and they just don’t really want to explore what characters can be outside of what they look like.

It’s been a year since you announced that you were leaving Euphoria. Now that you’ve got a bit of distance, how are you feeling about it?

I feel great. It was a whirlwind. It’s such a long time and you’re very limited to what you can do because you have time commitments to the show. Of course, I would’ve loved to stay on if it made sense, but it didn’t. It’s actually been really inspiring and really fun to explore different things. Euphoria was a huge blessing in my life – [because of the show], I’ve been able to create the career that I want for myself, which is really dope.

Do you still talk to any of the cast?

I do. I like to edit things, like put people’s faces on stuff, and send really funny things to people randomly. It’s kind of my text love language. I just sent Alexa [Demie] the stupidest picture. The girlies are busy but we check in with each other. It’s insane because everyone’s all over the world, so we never really get to be in the same place together. I talked to Sydney [Sweeney] the other day, she’s doing fantastic. She’s literally the most booked bitch I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m seeing Hunter [Schafer] and Sydney at SXSW. It’s gonna be a little reunion.

That’s so nice. How did Euphoria inform the choices that you make now? Because it was obviously such a major first experience to walk onto that set.

Kat was such a perfect character for me to start with because she’s so close to who I am, and I got to learn the technicalities of acting and start figuring out my process. Everyone is so different and every role requires such different things. After Euphoria, they tried to kind of put me into the box of Big Girl or Insecure Girl, which, by the way, is totally fine, but it’s just kind of one-note. The first thing I always look for is whether the character is different. I played three completely different characters in the past year, which was super fun to tap into. It was a challenge. I’m open to a lot of stuff if something makes sense and is cool.

You’ve got four projects coming up, House of Spoils, Faces of Death, The Young King, and, obviously, Bob Trevino Likes It. What’s been your favourite onset experience thus far?

We shot House of Spoils in Budapest. I’d never been to Eastern Europe – it was so cool.

“I love FREAKS – I only hang out with freaky people.”

Did you go to the baths?

No, I wanted to so bad, but I’ve never been able to do public baths. Even public pools or water parks as a kid, I was very scared. But Budapest was beautiful. I went to all the castles and had such a fun time. And I got to work with Ariana DeBose and Arian Moayed, who I love. I got to learn how to be a chef. My mum’s a chef, my aunt’s a chef, so I come from a culinary family. I got to do some kitchen training, which was super fun and a completely different experience. I was playing a character who’s so outside of what I usually play. And then Faces of Death was filmed in New Orleans, which I adore. And that was also fun ’cause it’s a horror movie, so – without spoiling anything – you get to do all the fun tricks.

Would you ever do theatre?

I would love to do theatre. It’s such a different muscle in the brain. I’ve never done any kind of professional play, I’ve only done what I did as a kid, the community theatre kind of stuff. I grew up in New York going to shows and I used to always love musicals. I can’t sing or dance, but I would walk out of the shows and be so inspired. Every time I watched a movie, every time I saw a performance, I was like, “This is what I’m meant to do.” ◼

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