Move over, Mona Lisa! There’s a new muse in town, and she’s got the perfect smile to steal the spotlight…everyone calls her Barbie! With the recent release and success of the Barbie movie starring the fabulous Margot Robbie and directed by the genius Greta Gerwig, it’s high time we delve into the meaning behind Barbie and celebrate her iconic status.
To pay homage to this timeless doll, Photographer Valerie Burke and Creative and Fashion Director, Felicia Ann Ryan and the Photographer, Valerie Burke joined their creative talents to create this stunning editorial shoot that brings Barbie to life. Both artists shared a similar vision of how they wanted it to look and feel. The team put together a Holiday Barbie-inspired editorial photoshoot that captures the essence of Barbie’s holiday spirit and her timeless chic style.
Barbie has come a long way since her inception in 1959, and the Barbie movie showcases her as a symbol of empowerment and individuality. The impact of this film brought Barbie back into the mainstream and reminded us all of her enduring influence. Through the use of holiday-inspired looks and attention to detail, this photoshoot captures the magic and joy of the all-knowing female figure while also inspiring viewers to embrace their own unique style and celebrate their individuality. Barbie has always been more than just a doll; she’s a global symbol of empowerment and possibility.
For this editorial, the creative team drew inspiration from holiday Barbie, and a perennial favorite among collectors and enthusiasts. Holiday Barbie has been gracing shelves since 1988 and the reveal of what she will be wearing this time of year is something children and adults look forward to each year. From glittering gowns to sparkling accessories, Holiday Barbie has become a symbol of celebration and joy. It was only fitting to incorporate her iconic looks into the photoshoot.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerie (Val) and Felicia about the making of this editorial. During our conversation, they shared their unique perspectives and creative process for the Barbie-inspired shoot.
Can you tell us about your inspiration behind the holiday Barbie-themed shoot?
Val: Barbie had such a moment in 2023 with the release of the movie, it made people fall in love again with such an iconic doll. Having a Holiday Barbie shoot felt like a great way to close out the year of Barbie.
Felicia: Val and I have a history of closing out the year with a holiday-themed shoot and when Val came to me with the suggestion we do a Barbie-themed project this year, I was simultaneously excited and fearful. Excited because I know how much the Barbie movie resonated with people, and feeling that connection between your project and the viewer is what I do this for. But I was also fearful that if we weren’t careful with the direction, it could feel too fake, too doll-like, like a beautiful but unattainable vision. I wanted Barbie to feel real like she stepped into our world and decided to go to a few holiday parties and have some fun Barbie style. She’s always been inspirational as a doll, I wanted her to be inspirational as a person and what better chance as with holiday-inspired looks, when we’re all playing dress up?!
What made you choose this concept?
Val: This concept started when I first saw the Barbie movie. The movie did a wonderful job transitioning Barbie from the Barbie world to the real world and we wanted to recreate it in a series of holiday-inspired images. When I reached out to Felicia about the concept, I could tell instantly that she had this idea in her head of how to bring the doll into the real world.
How did you approach capturing the essence of the iconic Barbie doll in your photographs?
Val: Throughout the story, we referenced the 2023 Holiday Barbie, but as Barbie transitioned into a more real fashion moment, we tried to incorporate aspects of the classic Barbie into each look. We started with a very doll-like look where it would feel like she was on display for the world and transitioned into a more real version of Barbie, where she felt like she was a part of the world. Duyen did a fabulous job of creating hairstyles that felt very Barbie but would still be someone that we could envision someone wearing at an event or red carpet. And Felicia did an incredible job of tying all the images together with stars as a reference to the 2023 Holiday Doll and B’s throughout the story.
Felicia: We replicated the 2023 Holiday Barbie, which is where the story starts, very doll-like, but wanted to transition into a more real and raw feeling Barbie as she moved into the ‘Real World’ so we decided to photograph her with one camera flash to feel like she was having her photo taken by an event photographer at a very real event. For fashion direction, I maintained the star theme where it made sense, carried over from the Classic Holiday Barbie, and included “Barbie” where possible in the accessories with initial necklaces, anklets, and earrings of course, she needed a pink moment, with the Valentino shoe. The hair also played a huge part, Duyen created these amazing wigs that felt like Barbie throughout.
Did you draw inspiration from any specific Barbie movies or characters?
Val: This shoot was inspired by the Barbie movie and Classic Barbie’s journey throughout that movie.
Felicia: For me personally, the idea of Barbie is where I drew my inspiration from, not from the actual doll itself, but from what she represents.
Were there any specific holiday elements or motifs that you focused on?
Val: For me, it was really just about the Holiday season and the real events and parties associated with the season, as well as focusing on colors that were reflective of the Holiday’s.
Felicia: My focus was on ensuring the fashion looks we used were very ‘wearable’. I want the viewer to feel like they are their own Barbie and like they can play dress up with themselves. And that the direction feels ‘real’ enough that people will feel confident using the looks as inspiration and not like wearing doll clothes.
Can you share any behind-the-scenes anecdotes or challenges you faced during the shoot? How did you overcome them and ensure that the final photographs reflected your vision?
Val: Ensuring that the concept is reading through as a story for me is always a challenge, letting go of an entire look because it didn’t resonate with the rest of the story, because the images were still amazing but ultimately it would have taken away from the story not added to it. Also ensuring that our Barbie reads both as the iconic doll the world has come to know, but also a real version of us at the same time.
Felicia: The challenge is always making sure the story makes sense. It has to be more than pretty pictures, I want there to be a narrative that has feeling and so it’s always challenging to ensure that throughout the entire shoot, everything fits together, that it has its own voice and viewers can hear what is being said. There is a lot of deleting that goes into ensuring the final photographs reflect the vision. Val and I removed an entire look because it didn’t have the right tone. Which is hard, because it takes a lot of work to do each look and we just removed a lot of hard work. But at the end of the day it’s the right choice for the story.
What do you hope viewers will take away from your holiday Barbie themed photographs? How do you want them to feel when they see the final images?
Val: To bring that sense of “I can do anything” that Barbie has created back into our lives, to bring that childhood play into our adult lives.
Felicia: I want viewers to be reminded to play in their everyday; just like when we were kids playing with Barbie. The holidays are a perfect time, because we are given this space to reflect and play a bit of dress up as we move through our holiday parties. And we can feel the parallels of when we were kids with our kids while we open gifts and play with them on Christmas. Barbie is so generational, and so is Christmas, with our family and different traditions and they feel like such a great fit together.
Can you share any special moments that occurred from this shoot?
Felicia: My daughter saw the Classic Barbie image on my screen as Val and I were selecting images and she thought she had ruined the surprise of me ordering her the Barbie Doll. I had to explain that this Barbie is real. And the look in her eyes, the gasp that she made, it was this realization, if that Barbie was real, then anything that “Barbie” does can be real too. It was this rare, fleeting moment that I saw she believed anything could come true. And isn’t that what Barbie is all about?!
Written by: Natalie T. Steger | @natalietsteger
Creative Director: Felicia Ann Ryan | @thefashionconspiracy
Photographer + Post Production: Valerie Burke | @burkephotography
Makeup Artist: Matthew King | @mttthw
Fashion Assistant: Tinishya Gillis – Sousa | @tinishya
Hair Assistant: Cat Yong | @CatYongFolio
Photo Assistant: Victoria Ansell-Gauvin | @victoria.ag.photo