I love fashion shoots. I find them so fun,” Celeste Barber says from the makeup chair as she’s transformed for the BAZAAR March 2020 portfolio, in which she recreates iconic fashion images including Kate Moss‘s Obsession for Men campaign and Jean-Paul Goude‘s portrait of Grace Jones.
Celeste Barber’s story is a feel good one: a relatively unknown Australian actor and comedian begins to post photographs of herself on Instagram, gently poking fun at the often risible world of posturing models and celebrities. Funny and irreverent, she quickly gains legions of fans; five years later she has 6.7 million followers, has starred on magazine covers and toured her one-woman show in theatres across the world.
The genius of her humour, and the reason it has resonated with so many women in particular, is Barber is not mocking any individual per se, but challenging the dominant view that only the thin and the insanely beautiful are worthy of our gaze. She speaks our collective truth and we love her for it. We know she’s genuine, that she’s on our side. Which is precisely why, when Barber began posting amid Australia’s horrific bushfires, the world responded in a heartbeat. Her initial fundraising target was $30,000. Within four days she had raised $33 million, which then swelled to $50 million: the largest single fundraiser in the history of Facebook.
Barber’s fame increased exponentially when designer Tom Ford made contact and featured her in a series of brilliant videos that showcase her comedic ability. The cleverness of her parodies lies partly in the fact her posts are far more than just random mugging. Barber is adept at physical comedy: funny dances, awkward moves. “I am a very physical person anyway, so it marries well with my Instagram and the idea of women’s physicality,” she says.
Immense traction on social media did not see Barber cashing in on lucrative endorsements for slimming tea or tooth whiteners, but rather opened up opportunities for new projects. “That was always the goal, to use Instagram as a platform to work more. I’m not an influencer,” she insists. “I have no interest in being in that world. I use it as a platform to show my comedy.”
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Barber is currently busy with various still-under-wraps film and television projects, including a series she is writing, slated for US release, in which she will star. She will also talk at the Australian Fashion Summit and exclusively strut the BAZAAR runway (on March 12) as a guest of Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, showcasing Australian designers including Aje, Ginger & Smart and Rebecca Vallance. “I’m really excited to be doing VAMFF,” she says. “I watched Ashley Graham absolutely slay last year and I am a big fan of hers as she, for me, is the epitome of a little less conversation, a little more action, and I think that’s what the fashion industry needs — get on with being diverse, get on with being inclusive, and I’m excited that VAMFF is doing this by including me.
Photographer: Georges Antoni
Stylist: Nicole Bonython-Hines
Hair: Brad Mullins
Makeup: Filomena Natoli
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR AU.