A 21st-Century Doll’s House: Chinese Barbie’s Chinese Friend by Ziwei Lu

Next up in Mula Zine x Dispersant is an exploration of authenticity and self-representation in the age of social media through an interview with a self-made socialite from China.
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When we think of Barbie, a long-limbed, ultra-slim blonde comes into mind. She cruises down Malibu highways in a 4X4 and spends her time hanging out with Ken in a dream house. These days, Barbie is everywhere. Coming in all forms and identities, 21st-century dolls dominate our lives through social media alongside personas that grow via every double-tap of the finger. With filters and beauty apps galore, there’s no room for imperfection in the airbrushed every day as images are unveiled to be consumed ‘fresh’ and for the instant taking. It’s face value first because nothing else matters if the trinity of fame, money, and status is reached. 

Luckily for you, Mula Zine has a rising socialite in our company to help you learn all you need to know about achieving the ultimate dream life. Introducing below, a close friend of the illustrious Chinese Barbie as she gives us a rare glimpse into her extraordinarily perfect life:

What does a day in your life look like? 

I spend 3-4 hours every night on Red picking up the newest and hottest photo spots and Instagram-worthy places to add to my to-go list; and getting inspired by other Chinese barbies on the latest trends and things to buy. You have to keep up with the game! My mission on day two is to go down my lists and cross them off! I have my barbie friends who are experts in taking portraits and I always have my Nurin doll with me so that she could help me with the pictures and carry my shopping. It’s nicer to have someone with you for an afternoon tea right? I highly recommend tailoring your own Nurin Doll and programme it to fit your need. I will share my specs with you guys later on Instagram, so do follow me!

What are you currently up to? 

I recently launched the 2021 Summer TP2 programme. It’s a tailored tour and professional personal branding service directed by me with help from my customized Nurin. I designed this service to help those who want to elevate their persona online but lack the skills and time to do so. For this summer, our destination is East Asia and we have dozens of handpicked activities designed to help our clients achieve the exotic East Asian vibe. Click here to tailor your summer and upgrade your persona now!

How have you dealt with everything that’s happening over the last year with the pandemic?

I think the pandemic was such a boost for us influencers. With lockdowns, many more linger online and rely on virtual means to get updates from others. And that means a perfect chance to cut the cost and optimise the virtual possibilities. I was able to throw a big party for my best friend Chinese Barbie on her 16th birthday; went to the Bvlgari Hotel and did a review of their afternoon tea and Michelin starred dinner and even met and worked with Nurin on our exciting TP2 Service! The world needs us to keep it entertained.

What are the top 5 secrets to living a dream life?

Now, I’m going to share with you, dear readers my Top 5 secrets to Living a Dream Life. Upgrades Guaranteed!

1. Live a Virtual Life
Want to live a dream life? Live it virtually. Build a dream world of your own, don’t limit yourself to the 3-story Malibu townhouse! Be adventurous, be ambitious!

2. You Are What You Show
Be intensional with your posts, they should serve as bricks that construct you! Remember, you’re only what you show!

3. Cut Your Cost
Living your ideal dream life can cost a fortune. Share the price with your fellow mates, find a dupe whenever possible,
or try borrowing instead! Share your assets with the Chinese barbie community! Follow me to get tried and tested tips on shopping for expensive-looking items at a limited budget!

4. Steal Like a Socialite
Uninspired? Simply ‘steal’ from your fellow socialites! There’s no pressure in being original here. Duplicate them to learn from them, appropriate them and build on them! You’ll definitely find yourself advancing through the game!

5. Attract the Gold
Our ultimate goal? Obviously, to attract gold. But if you follow the first four steps through, you’ll find people and things of golden standard finds you like a bee to the nectar.


 

What would you say is the biggest misconception about you?

I’ve had quite some comments on me being very fake (not sure if they’re referring to me as a persona or the pictures). In my opinion, a person is the most genuine when s/he is performing the one s/he strives to be, so I’m always the most authentic version of me, especially those moments I share online.

How do you define beauty, success, and influence?

Beauty = is the foundation for success and influence.

Success = Scale of influence.

Influence =  Capital, monetizing property.

You guys are living the dream. What is your biggest dream in life?

To be forever young, rich, beautiful, and famous! Even better if I get taken before the age of 24.

What are your future aspirations?

I want to make the TP2 service my permanent business, I want to provide a tested fast track for ammeter influencers to achieve their influencer dream. It might expand into a virtual personal branding school where I guide them through their upgrade journey or possibly construct their online presence for them 😊

Do you have a message for your followers?

Really, for me, I just wanted to share my lifestyle. As I gained popularity, I noted what I’m doing can possibly bring positive influences on the lives of others. I want to thank my followers for supporting me throughout the journey and want them to know that I’m here to inspire and help elevate your lifestyles and personas which help you achieve your aims in this digital age.

Chinese barbie’s Chinese friend is a performance-based project by artist Ziwei Lu taking place across Instagram and YouTube. Drawing from the concept of William Wegman’s 1987 work Fake Frogs, she was inspired to explore the notion of authenticity and constructed identities in the digital age after finding a barbie doll in a Hong Kong street market. “A shell that services the capital”, the cultural icon of barbie drew parallels with the increasingly “inauthentic” presences she observed across image-based platforms. Under the ideation of Chinese Barbie’s Chinese friend, she investigates the role of camera phones and editing tools against the interacting forces of internet influencers, mainstream media, ingrained stereotypes, and cultural symbols to challenge the performative self under the expanding economy of face value. 

What are your thoughts on the rise of virtual influencers such as Miquela Souza and the emergence of online socialites?

It’s very exciting to see there are increasingly more virtual influencers and how they integrated seamlessly into the community. Besides Lil Miquela, I also follow @noonoouri, @shudu.gram, @imma.gram, @AYAYI @翎_Ling. The Korean AI girl band Eternity and the virtual members of Aespa are impressive too. I like to think of these virtual influencers as avatars, of the people (design and marketing team) behind them. They’re IPs = capitals owned by their companies – vehicles for monetisation. Similar to socialites who share their luxurious lifestyles, I think it’s all good as they’re part of the diversity. Of course, the discussion might come down to materialism, body-shaming, and other negative impacts on users’ psychological well-being. But I think it’s the users’/followers’ responsibility to remain critical about what they see and consume and to understand the nature of social media as showcasing platforms. What intrigues me the most is the emergence of ‘fake’ (as in deceptive) identities and those who use them as a means to fame, status, and money. I’m not against their choices, but I’m interested in investigating the circumstances that encouraged the phenomena.

Do you think consumers /social media users differentiate between real and digital influencers? What do you think is the attraction towards digital influencers?

I think it’s increasingly harder to distinguish between the two, especially visually, with CGI and AI technology advancing at an unprecedented speed. Also, I don’t see the need to distinguish them because they perform the same functions. I think it’s the fascination or even the uncanny, of seeing something so real that it’s unreal. To me, it’s the curiosity to see how these characters identify themselves and how they react to themselves – being essentially robots – a shell for the human ego. Essentially, seeing how the one behind them acts and performs them. 

What does the future of social media/influencer marketing look like?

I think the western market is definitely utilising the impacts of influencers, especially the virtual ones. They’re more malleable visually – they could be tailored to fit the identities of different brands. This might encourage more human influencers to embrace the use of avatars or construct different identities for products and brands. On the other hand, this could mean a bigger separation between reality and the world displayed on social media. In China, with the popularity and success of real-person live commerce across live-streaming, e-commerce and social media platforms, e.g. Taobao, Red, Tiktok, Kuaishou etc.; coupled with the ever-rising number of users, I think it’ll take some time for the market to saturate and tilt toward micro or virtual influencers.