Living Doll: Valeria Lukyanova by Sebastian Faena

Photography: SEBASTIAN FAENA

Valeria Lukyanova. They call her the human Barbie, and her emergence is an online phenomenon that only could have manifested in 2012. Though Valeria Lukyanova had been posting videos of her almost inhuman beauty since November of last year, it was only when Gawker Media site Jezebel discovered the Ukrainian singer on April 22 that a virtual firestorm erupted, her likeness spreading through inboxes and across Twitter with breakneck velocity. The resulting chatter reached a soprano pitch—and with good reason. Her preferred look is so calculated and seemingly artificial that it borders on CGI. “Has Valeria achieved her Mattel-made look through surgery?” asked the Huffington Post. “Does she even exist?” London’s Daily Maildemanded to know. ABC News launched something of an investigation into the mysterious meme and concluded, “It’s unclear whether Lukyanova exists at all, or whether it’s all a hoax thanks to the world of photo editing.”

The truth is that Valeria is very much real, as brought to our attention by a Ukrainian contact who prefers to remain anonymous. The referral came with a strict warning to keep away from the musician and self-professed practitioner of “astral projection” (the practice of out-of-body travel). Our source also claimed that the Security Service of Ukraine is having Lukyanova’s activities monitored. “Be careful,” we were warned. “We’re worried for you, and do not want you to suffer from her.” Of course our interest was piqued. Born in the Moldavian city of Tiraspol, the girl who calls herself “Amatue” (her spiritual name, an Atlantean reference to the goddess of the sun, she says) now resides in Odessa, Ukraine. Though she admits on her site that she is “endowed by nature with extraordinary external data,” her main focus is on her musical and spiritual pursuits. We brought this viral phenom to New York City, entranced by her unnaturally thin waist, dramatic curves, and trendy, new age sense of style, which often includes pastel spaghetti-strap crop tops, navel piercings, and bindis. To say that her beauty routine is peculiar—she exaggerates her dew-drop eyes through makeup tricks and contact lenses—would be an understatement. Since Valeria’s star began to rise, many other such human avatars have sprung up, from San Francisco (home of Dakota Rose, aka Kotakoti) to China (where a new star by the name of Tina Leopard has gone viral). There’s even a local friend of Valeria’s by the name of Anastasiya Shpagina, whose appearance is borderline macabre—she looks like she walked straight off the animated series Sailor Moon. “Indeed, I’ve noticed a trend,” Valeria says of the beauty phenomenon. “Every good-looking woman with fine features and a slim figure looks like a doll. I won’t deny that I play along with people’s perceptions. I’m amused by the reactions. I don’t take it seriously.” (V Magazine)