If someone had recorded the reactions of people on set for Barbie Ferreira’s photo shoot, it would likely sound like a series of oohs and ahhs, mixed with the occasional gasp and exclamation of “Love it!” Seeing the Euphoria actress confidently nail shot after shot, show a series of emotions, and perfectly pull off every trend we dressed her in was impressive — but not surprising in the least.
Well before she had us glued to our TV screen, playing Kat on the new and mind-blowing HBO show, Ferreira was working as a professional model, racking up credits and campaigns for stores like American Apparel, Target, and Aerie.
“I can distort my body in any way possible, just because of the sheer amount of clothing I had to model in my life,” she admits when asked about her various poses. “A lot of what I did was commercial stuff, which people probably won't ever see and has already disappeared from the Internet — just me modeling clothes for people to buy. I would do, like, 60 outfits a day for years.”
Of course, while all of that was going on, acting was still the main goal for the 22-year-old, who was involved in theater as a child growing up in Queens.
“I was trying to be a kid actor, but my mom and my grandma had no idea what that meant,” she tells us with a laugh. "I think my first American Apparel ad was like, ‘Meet Barbara, she wants to be an actress.’ So it was definitely a goal in mind throughout this whole journey.”
Eventually Euphoria came along, and there was no better person to play the part of the background BFF turned cam-girl-dominatrix.
“I was very insecure with my body for a long time,” Ferreira admits, comparing her younger-self to Kat pre-transformation and hinting that high school wasn’t exactly fun for her. “I was absorbing all this media bullshit that basically told me I have to change, and that every woman has to adhere to a certain beauty standard. So she really resonated with me. It was evident in the way that Kat carried herself that she wanted to blend in and be small in every way possible — not just physically. Then when she has this kind of catalyst of an event, she makes a decision to be this person who takes up space in whatever situation she's in.”
That catalyst, as fans of the show know, is a sex tape filmed without her consent that ends up on a porn site. Eventually, the teen begins video chatting with older men for money, all while wearing a cat mask and sexy lingerie. It’s just one of Euphoria’s headline-making storylines, along with drug use and intense blackmailing. All of it, according to Ferreira, is important to document.
“It’s a reflection of the access that teens have, and, yes, there's controversial nudity or whatever, but that serves a purpose to create the atmosphere, I think. Without the graphicness of some of the scenes — because it's all intentional — you wouldn't really feel what we're trying to call out. You're like, ‘This is like a dangerous power dynamic,’ or, ‘This is a dangerous situation to be in.’ The only way to really reflect that is to show you that dynamic. I like controversial stuff.”
On the lighter side of things, aside from living that secret internet life, Kat’s overall style evolves as season progresses. A few episodes in, the teen trades her jeans and polos for shorter skirts, chokers, and harnesses — and never looks back.
“I was waiting for that transformation because I wanted to wear something cute on set — you know what I'm saying?” Ferreira jokes. She ended up collaborated with Euphoria costume designer Heidi Bivens on her alter-ego’s outfits, even wearing her own jewelry. “I would bring in my personal clothes and she would pull things from her favorite shops, and I would give her links to certain stores. It’s a little tricky because I know how to style myself. I am a bigger girl, so a lot of places don't necessarily have something my size. But I know which brands are stretchy, or which stores go up to an extra-large.”
In real life, the actress says her style can go one of two ways. While she calls herself a “cozy girl��� who has a curated a collection sweatpants and slides, she also recently bought a pair of sparkly bike shorts that leave "a streak of glitter" everywhere she goes.
“I love wearing crazy styles — the weirder the better,” Ferreira says. “I literally will wear things just because it's ridiculous; that's my favorite kind of clothing.”
She also peruses sites like Depop, eBay, and Grailed to find gems that no one else will have. “I think it's because I like the feel and texture of vintage clothing, but also, it's sustainable," she says.
Of the trends she modeled for InStyle, she fell the most in love with an '80s-inspired, Zara LBD — so much so, that she took it home.
“I asked permission, but I did steal it,” she says afterward. “I've worn it two days in a row. I love a baby-doll dress that moves around with you. It has little stretch and spaghetti straps but is kind of puffy at the bottom. I'm obsessed with that dress.”
In the near future, the actress tells us she’s hoping to take a short break. She started doing press almost immediately after she finished filming and needs some time to recharge before diving into Euphoria’s season two (which, unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while to watch). However, Ferreira also has big goals for the future-future, and those involve seeing more body types represented on-screen.
“There are so many more storylines with fat people,” she says, addressing whether it would have been helpful seeing a character like Kat while growing up. “I can only represent myself, and it doesn’t unpack all the layers of fat-phobia. It is a step in the right direction — someone who's bigger gets to have dimension and layered story arcs. Hopefully that expands and can also apply to people with different body types who might not be necessarily [fit] the standard of what you think bigger girls should look like. I also hope that someday, people won’t really focus on body type, because having a whole cast of people where everyone's a size four doesn't read as realistic. I hope that it's normalized in a way where everyone doesn't have to put the energy into it.”
Photographs by Eric T. White, assisted by Cait Durra. Styled by Laurel Pantin. Hair by Dennis deVoy for Art Department using R&Co. Makeup by Erin Green for Art Department using Noto Botanics. Art direction and production by Kelly Chiello.