The Insta-Famous Barbie Ferreira


When she was 16, Barbara “Barbie” Ferreira saw that there weren’t enough models who looked like her–and she wanted to change that. In a tactical move that would launch her modeling career, the Queens native took what she calls “poorly lit selfies in her bedroom” and e-mailed them off to American Apparel’s casting department, who didn’t even wait one full day to answer her solicitation.

As one would guess, an American Apparel ad isn’t a bad way to boost one’s Instagram presence. In a matter of weeks, Ferreira’s curves became a trending topic, giving her the platform she’d use to become one of the predominant voices behind the #droptheplus campaign. “People see me and they can relate to me. They support me because my success means that they can someday gain opportunities as well.”

What Ferreira’s 220K following might be surprised to learn is that she wasn’t exactly born with the self-confidence she’s become known for. She recalls herself as a “chubby 8-year-old who wore glasses, had a really emo haircut, and had no friends.” She wore band shirts that were “three sizes too big for me because I was so insecure about my body,” she continues. “People called me ‘fat ass’ until second grade.” She even admits to buying into the world of “thinspo,” which at one point was the cause of her drastic 20-pound weight loss that she had hoped would land her an acting gig.

She claims that her turning point came from an epiphany that can also be attributed to social media. “I gained my confidence the day I realized that people on the Internet are cruel for no reason,” she says. “I think it’s on purpose that we’re all made to feel insecure since birth. No matter what, you’re not enough–you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You have no boobs or too big boobs. I saw a comment on Candice Swanepoel’s Instagram account that said, ‘You’re so fucking ugly.’ I was like, Wow, you cannot win. There’s no way that you can be in this world and not feel kind of shitty sometimes.”

Ferreira has since vowed to put on a brave face in front of her own “haters,” who often remind her that they think she should lay off of the Taco Bell. “For every cruel comment there are 20 positive ones,” she says. “I’m doing this so that people get that it’s not about being thin.”

After making some headway with body-image issues, Ferreira is also planning to speak out against sexism, transphobia, and even Islamophobia. Her loyal following is ready and waiting.


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