The ‘Barbie’ Makeup Artist Shares Secrets to Getting The Barbie Look IRL
Lead hair and makeup artist Ivana Primorac discussed how she brought Barbies and Kens to life in the summer’s biggest hit.
If you haven’t seen Barbie yet, you’re probably feeling pretty left out right about now. Not only is it the summer’s number one movie, it’s a major pop cultural phenomenon. It seems like Barbie is all that anyone can talk about both online and IRL; in New York City, where people famously dress in mostly black at all times (even deep into July), the sidewalks around movie theaters are dotted with people decked out in all shades of pink. Barbie Land has infiltrated the real world — and honestly, it looks great.
What this pink invasion makes clear is that the aesthetics of the Barbie movie are inextricably linked with the plot and the excitement surrounding it — and as such, the stakes have always been extremely high for the people responsible for creating the world and the characters on screen. Lead hair and makeup artist for the movie, Ivana Primorac, was the person tasked with giving life to the beauty aesthetic of the denizens of Barbie Land. Ahead of the movie’s release, she shared with NYLON the process of transforming each of the movie’s stars into believable Barbies and Kens.
Starting six months before filming, Primorac — along with Barbie director Greta Gerwig and costume designer Jaqueline Durran — embarked on a fact-finding mission to get inspired by all kinds of Barbies from years past by sourcing books on vintage Barbie dolls. “It was a huge research process. There was a lot to discover, but it was all fun, and that's what was so delightful about the project,” says Primorac, who was admittedly “big time into Barbie” when she was growing up. “It was very obvious how old we all are because all of our favorite Barbies were of our generation. Greta's were the ’80s, mine were kind of from the ’70s,” laughed Primorac.
The team went through a few different concepts before settling on the one that best sold the “Barbie look” on screen, from giving all the dolls a uniform design to giving a more plastic-y look to the actors’ skin. “What we realized is that Barbie represents each person in a way that it’s a ‘perfect’ version of each person,” explains Primorac. This translated to a very detail-oriented and tailored approach to every beauty and fashion choice for each individual Barbie or Ken. “We had to find the best colors for each person. The best length for every outfit. We had to find the best makeup that suits that person.” Everyone used their own personal skin care routine and makeup, with the note that each Barbie was supposed to look as fresh, natural, and classic as possible, giving the dolls a look outside of time.
The difference between Hollywood red carpet-ready and Barbie Land-ready is all in the heightened details. The proportions of the Barbies’ hair were specifically extra long and flared out wider than the shoulders to communicate supernatural perfection. Extensive beauty routines were essential for giving the doll look from head to toe. In true PVC form, all-over hair removal was necessary for the Kens, and custom body makeup was required for everyone. “We had to make [body makeup] specially for the movie because it didn’t really exist,” Primorac says. It was crucial that it wouldn’t come off on the pastel-and-white Barbie outfits and accessories, but every part of the skin had to be finished flawlessly with body makeup — from the knees, the elbows, and the heels, to the tips of the fingers.
Barbie has been long known for setting unrealistic beauty ideals, and the Barbie set was no different. The level of doll-like perfection required for filming took the the labor of a full team for each actor. “Every Barbie had to have a team of at least three people to get them together and make them into their Barbie-self every morning, because it was quite a lengthy process,” explains Primorac of the time-consuming preparation. Margot Robbie as the lead and “Stereotypical Barbie” had close to 40 costumes (including about a dozen before the end of the opening credit sequence). “Margot in that sense is my favorite because she had endless looks ... and every single one had a different lipstick, different blush, and different hair.”
So, while the average person can’t look like Barbie (after all, that’s the whole point), Primorac thinks there are still takeaways from the doll’s aesthetic for the rest of us to embrace Barbie Girl Summer. “When you think you look fabulous and everything looks great, you take it one step further,” she says. It’s not about expensive products or heavy makeup, but it’s just about doing it all and having it beautifully applied — “and then on top of that, a little bit of sparkle and a glitter in the corner of [the] eye so the sun catches it,” advises Primorac. “That's why everyone can be as glamorous and fun as Barbie. All you have to do is put everything on that makes you look good and makes you smile.”