Pink macarons and empowerment: a day in the 'World of Barbie'

PAULA RAMON
07 Jul 2023 11:36am
The "You Can Be Anything TV Network" set is seen at the interactive exhibition "The World of Barbie" on June 28, 2023, at Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)
The "You Can Be Anything TV Network" set is seen at the interactive exhibition "The World of Barbie" on June 28, 2023, at Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)
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SANTA MONICA, US - In the "World of Barbie," the news is always happy, the weather is always perfect, and the kitchen is always full of sweet pink macarons.

A huge immersive attraction in Los Angeles - all bright colors and childhood whimsy, complete with Dreamhouse - has drawn tens of thousands of visitors, just as excitement builds for "Barbie," a major Hollywood film based on the legendary doll this summer.

"It's Barbie spirit, Barbie energy everywhere!" said Lucy Treadway, spokeswoman for Kilburn Live which, along with toy manufacturer Mattel, runs the 20,000-square-foot (1,850-square-meter) experience.

Visitors - nearly all dressed in peak Barbiecore, with lots of pink and glitter - can explore a ball pit with a fuchsia slide, a beauty salon, beach chairs and palm trees, a recording studio, and even a spaceship.

In this surreal make-believe world, a morning news studio broadcasts bulletins about cute dog competitions, and a map shows perfect weather across the United States, with temperatures never rising above a balmy 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius).

The "World of Barbie" is not directly linked to the film - out in US theaters on July 21 - but comes amid a blitz of Barbie-themed events, also including a Barbie-themed mansion listed on Airbnb in nearby Malibu.

Rhonda, Lois and Felice, all in their 50s and friends since childhood, travelled to Los Angeles to meet up for a girls' weekend at "World of Barbie." "We're girls again," said Lois, posing for photos with her friends in front of the pool slide.

The two-story experience also contains a museum tracking Barbie's career since the first dolls - dressed up in heels and a black-and-white bathing suit - arrived in stores in 1959, and the iconic Dreamhouse.

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"The Barbie Dreamhouse is such a staple in so many people's lives," said Treadway.

"If you've been playing with it since you're a child, (or) maybe your sibling played with it... it still gives you that feeling of nostalgia." Another popular spot is a room full of human-size doll boxes, which visitors can enter to pose as movie director Barbie, skater Barbie, explorer Barbie, mermaid Barbie and Hollywood star Barbie.

As well as providing Instagrammable moments, the interactive experience tries to impart an empowering message.

Each box comes with a caption at the bottom, saying "You can be anything you want." "Barbie has been an inspiration over so many decades, and to really show people that you can be whatever you want," said Treadway.

"Love who you are, don't be afraid of who you are, you can be anything - she was at the forefront of teaching that, and it stood the test of time." The message appears to have resonated with Emmanuel Fernandez.

The 38-year-old was inspired to visit after watching the trailer for the upcoming movie, in which Ryan Gosling plays Ken alongside Margot Robbie as Barbie.

"I wanted to become Ken," said Fernandez, who started working out, and bought himself a new outfit - a bright pink and turquoise print shirt and shorts.

Standing in line to buy a pink cocktail at the exhibition, Fernandez said he was thrilled to have achieved his goal of becoming a real-life Ken, in this world of escapism.

"I'm happy... everything is so cute here!" - AFP

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