Hari Nef invented the wildest origin story for her character in Barbie: ‘This is no child’s doll’

Hari Nef has her Barbie back story ready. (Getty/Warner Bros)

Trans icon and Barbie star Hari Nef created the wildest back story for her plastic fantastic persona after she landed a coveted role in the anticipated film.

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the past year, you will be aware of the mounting excitement for Greta Gerwig’s magnum opus Barbie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the most famous doll in the world … and Ken.

But that’s just the beginning. The star studded cast includes many ambitious Barbie dolls such as physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey), weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), President Barbie (Issa Rae), Mermaid Barbie (Dua Lipa) and, of course, Hari Nef as Doctor Barbie.

While the plot is largely under wraps, the trailer shows Robbie’s Barbie suffer an existential crisis about her place in the Barbieworld and embark on a larger-than-life adventure in the real world. There is major buzz for the campest film of the summer but the LGBTQ+ community is particularly thrilled to see powerful trans representation through Nef’s Barbie in a traditionally cis female world.

And no one is more excited than the Transparent star herself, who – in an interview with Vogue – revealed the oddly detailed back story she whipped up for “the doll collector”, who owns her Barbie in the real world.

“[He is] a gay man in his 50s who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in the West Village,” she explained. She pointed to her outfit as the reason behind the choice which – from what we have seen so far – consists of a pink sequinned dress with a large bow, matching heart earrings, flower hair pin and tiara.

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She continued: “I was given the most over-the-top, fashion-y, crazy costumes and I was like ‘this is no child’s doll’.”

Things took a sad turn when she explained why her Barbie is so well-preserved. “I feel like every week he has his two or three friends over, maybe he’s a little lonely, and he shows them my new outfit. And I just kind of stay in my box,” she concluded.

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It’s no surprise that Nef came up with such a carefully crafted back story after she recently admitted how hard she fought to star in the film. In an emotional Instagram post on 4 April, she explained she almost turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts but convinced Gerwig and Robbie to “fudge the schedule” in a heartfelt letter.

In the excerpt she shared, she began: “Identity politics and cinema aren’t my favourite combination, but the name BARBIE looms large over every American woman. Barbie’s the standard; she’s The Girl; she’s certainly THE doll.”

According to Nef, she and her “transgender girlfriends” began calling themselves “the dolls” a couple of years ago as a joke, noting the phrase’s legacy in ballroom vernacular.

“But underneath the word ‘doll’ is the shape of a woman who is not quite a woman-recognisable as such, but still a fake,” she continued. “‘Doll’ is fraught, glamorous; she is, and she isn’t. We call ourselves ‘the dolls’ in the face of everything we know we are, never will be, hope to be.

“We yell the word because the word matters. And no doll matters more than Barbie.'”

The Barbie cast includes Nicola Coughlan, Ritu Arya, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne and Alexandra Shipp as the other Barbie dolls; Ncuti Gatwa, Simu Liu, Scott Evans and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Ken dolls; Michael Cera as Ken’s friend Allan; Emerald Fennell as pregnant Midge doll; America Ferrera, Connor Swindells, Jamie Demetriou, Ariana Greenblatt and Will Ferrell as humans; and Helen Mirren as the narrator.

Barbie drops in UK cinemas on 21 July, 2023.

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