Meet Trophy Wife Barbie! The Doll That Gives No F*cks

Trophy Wife Barbie is the doll your mom never bought you. She drinks, breast feeds in public, gets her period and flaunts her cellulite. She's a modern day feminist and the brainchild of conceptual artist Annelies Hofmeyer.  After stumbling across a photo of Trophy Wife Barbie taking a "cellulite selfie" on Instagram, I immediately reached out to Hofmeyer to learn more about the Barbie refusing to color within the lines. Her work so artfully calls both gender stereotypes and beauty standards into question in a way that both made me laugh and go deep into thought. In our interview, Hofmeyer details her mission with Trophy Wife Barbie, and the reason she's always wearing antlers and sharing her period with the world.

What’s your background?

I’m a 38-year old South African currently based in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve traveled a bit and lived in a few other countries including Ireland, Canada, and Thailand. So far, Australia feels the most like home. I have a background in Graphic Design and also studied Contemporary Jewelry but these days find the job description of “Conceptual Artist” most accurate. Photography plays a big part in my work as my primary medium at the moment is Instagram.

What was the inspiration behind Trophy Wife Barbie?

My Trophy Wife Barbie Instagram started in November 2015 out of a desire to keep talking about things I was interested in: gender issues and the modern female identity. I’d been exploring these topics through my work for a while but the difference this time was using Barbie. I gave Barbie a pair of antlers to physically represent a label she has to walk around with all day – that of a Trophy Wife. She is judged on her looks - something that isn’t in her control – and I wanted to question the limitations of labelling. Having labels imposed on you and choosing to live according to stereotypes are two very different things. Nobody is just one thing, yet we often treat people as if they are and their labels become their identity. By placing Trophy Wife Barbie and her friends in everyday situations I hope to encourage the viewer to dig a little deeper and see past the stereotypes and invite people to consider what might happen if we focus on the things that we have in common, rather than fear the things that make us different. 

What is your message as an artist today?

I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to look or act a certain way because of what we think society expects of us. I’m interested in challenging those preconceived notions and in facilitating discussions around these unnecessary pressures. For example, if over 90% of women have some form of cellulite, why is it still something that we feel the need to ‘fix’ for aesthetic purposes? I believe when women get together and start sharing their issues, we all feel better about ourselves!

I hope through my work I can facilitate discussions relating to body image and self-esteem, with a little help from Barbie and a healthy dose of humor.

Why did you choose Barbie to be the face of these issues?

Interestingly, I’ve been talking about the same set of issues on my personal account for years. I believe because it’s Barbie and not me fronting the campaign, the story is a lot easier to connect with. Dolls are far less threatening and have a way of, ironically, being more relatable than humans. I guess it’s no surprise that dolls have been used in therapy for ages.

I noticed you have a lot of non-Barbie related period posts on your instagram. What was your period project all about?

 Before Trophy Wife Barbie I did a whole project on periods when Instagram removed an 8-second video of me dancing in a pair of period pants to Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love. Being shut down just highlighted to me that this was a topic that needed further discussion. So, I went on to post a period-related piece of adornment every month, mid-cycle for a year. I wanted to 1) highlight, and provide an alternative to, the socially accepted one-dimensional representation of women's bodies, and 2) volunteer the contents of my uterus on a monthly basis in a bid to avoid being asked about pregnancy - the only seemingly socially accepted contents of a woman's uterus. I continue exploring this topic with Trophy Wife Barbie as a way of circumventing censorship. Instagram has subsequently censored other posts but the period-related ones have remained intact! Once I started talking about the issues that mattered to me, I realized that there are other people that are willing to talk about it too. I just had to initiate the conversation. So, I became the “period friend” and people would tag me all things period-related. I learned a lot about my own body but I must say, I prefer now being the Barbie friend!

What does beauty mean to you?

My perception of beauty has changed a lot over the years as I’ve gotten to know myself better. In the past, I felt that beauty came from having “perfect” hair or “perfect” skin. But now, I believe that beauty comes from your personality and your intention.   What is a person about? What are they like? I used to focus on the outside more but now I move past that a lot more easily.

What’s your beauty routine like?

 I started wearing a lot less makeup when I went backpacking a few years ago because it just wasn’t practical. When I lived in Thailand, I was sweating all the time from the humidity and always felt sticky. I also could never seem to find a foundation that would match my skin tone. Basically, makeup became this massive chore so I stopped wearing it for two years. That helped me break the habit of needing to wear makeup every day and it’s been so liberating! I thought that I would feel really weird going without makeup, but I found that people didn’t really care. And the more comfortable I got, the less I started thinking about it. Now, I really don’t think about makeup. I just focus on washing my face at night, and using a good moisturizer and when the urge strikes, I put on some red lipstick.

How do you manage stress in your own life?

I got into yoga a couple years ago when I realized that I wasn’t really creating space for myself. During that one hour that I do yoga, it’s just about me. My body, my breathing. Oh, and I love sleeping. I really love sleeping!

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