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Galia Slayen
Galia Slayen made a Barbie doll that stands about 6 feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist, and 33" hips.
TODAY contributor
updated 4/14/2011 5:24:50 PM ET 2011-04-14T21:24:50

Barbie’s not just a doll.

In Galia Slayen’s hands, the iconic blond plaything has morphed into a life-size representation of what an eating disorder looks like.

Four years ago, Slayen, then a student at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore., built what she believed to be a life-size version of the doll she played with as a child as part of the first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

“I was at a friend’s house and her mom’s an artist so there were all these art supplies around,” Slayen told TODAY.com. “She helped with the actual proportions.”

Slayen brought the life-sized doll to the Today studios Monday to show off her handiwork. The Barbie stands about 6 feet tall with a 39" bust, 18" waist and 33" hips. She is made of wood, chicken wire and papier mache, and is dressed in a size 00 skirt that was a remnant from Slayen’s one-year bout with anorexia.

“I’m not blaming Barbie [for my illness] — she’s one small factor, an environmental factor,” Slayen said. “I’m blond and blue-eyed and I figured that was what I was supposed to look like. She was my idol. It impacted the way I looked at myself.”

The goal in creating Barbie’s likeness was to start conversation. “Talking about eating disorders is taboo to many people, and this made people talk about it,” Slayen said. “It’s a shocking image. A lot of people have seen it, and it’s started debates,” she said, particularly after she wrote about it for the Huffington Post. “Her proportions are not 100 percent correct, but her look is not invalid.”

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“As a pop-cultural icon, Barbie is often used as art to express one’s own personal opinions and views,” a Mattel spokesperson said in an email. “Girls see female body images everywhere today and it’s critical that parents and caregivers provide perspective on what they are seeing. It’s important to remember that Barbie is a doll who stands 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7.25 ounces — she was never modeled on the proportions of a real person.”

Slideshow: Barbie through the ages (on this page)

Slayen introduced her Barbie to her college, Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., at its first National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this year.

At the school, there were different activities for each day of the week, including covering mirrors with pictures, facts and information on eating disorders, something Slayen had done at her high school. However, “there were just eight mirrors in my high school. There were over 300 in my college,” she said with a sigh.

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Video: Barbie’s 39” bust, 18” waist stir body-image debate

  1. Closed captioning of: Barbie’s 39” bust, 18” waist stir body-image debate

    >>> well, every woman probably played with one when she was a girl -- a barbie doll . you will meet a college student with a special relationship to this day with one barbie in particular. she's hoping to generate an adult conversation about the impact the doll can have on young women as they grow up. she's a sophomore at hamilton college , a 20-year-old who brings a barbie to school complete with her own carrying case, but the barbie didn't come from a toy store . it was created by galia herself.

    >> she's much bigger than the barbie i used to have.

    >> reporter: and that's the point. her version of a life-sized barbie was put on display at her college for national eating disorder awareness week.

    >> my goal of barbie is to create discussion. you can't ignore her.

    >> reporter: four years ago galia was overcoming her own battle with anorexia. although there were many factors that contributed she said barbie left an impression as she grew up.

    >> this idea of being so thin, so perfect. it would come back to this idea of looking like barbie , perfect.

    >> reporter: with nails, wood and two balloons she said barbie came to life. according to the measurements if barbie werele reel she would be 6'0" tall, with a 39 inch bust, 18 inch waist and 33 inch hips.

    >> it's one factor that plays a role in a young girl 's development.

    >> reporter: and it was shock and awe.

    >> for me and my friends it elicited shame.

    >> that's what the media portrays. this is what counts as beautiful.

    >> reporter: mattel has come under fire before about the doll's proportions and the website acknowledges barbie is, quote, not scaled to human measurements ."

    >> we can't blame barbie for all of our body image woes but this life-sized model of barbie allow allows parents to say with confidence that barbie may be fun and games , but she's not real.

    >> reporter: a real life lesson galia hopes to pass on.

    >> it's beyond barbie . it's about finding who you are, not wanting to become barbie , the celebrity, that person. it's about finding that internal view.

    >> reporter: in a statement to msnbc.com mattel said girls see female body images everywhere and it is critical that parents and caregivers provide perspective on what they are seeing. remember, barbie is a doll who stands 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7.25 ounces. she was never modeled on the proportions of a real person. galia is here with lesly goldman, a body image expert. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> i know we were chuckling as we look at the life-sized barbie you created and the guys especially chuckling more. this is no laughing matter to you because this was something that came out of an eating disorder , right?

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> do you think barbie contributed initially to some of the ideas of perfection as a young girl for you?

    >> definitely. i think barbie is just one factor in many. there are so many environmental factors with an eating disorder . you think of young girls in the grocery aisle and different magazines saying how to lose weight , lose five pounds. the media, your parents, your friends. there are so many pressures to look and be a certain way. there is a drive for thinness. with barbie , you can tell when scaled up she has crazy proportions. as a young girl looking at her it's important to realize that she's not real. that's the point of the get real barbie campaign. she isn't real.

    >> the measurements are a 39-inch bust, 18 inch waist, 33-inch hips. you based these on the national eating disorder association's website where they have the get real barbie campaign. are you blaming barbie for the message being put out there to young girls?

    >> no, not at all. she's one of many different factors. i don't blame barbie for the eating disorder . so many things contribute to the eating disorder and many misconceptions of why people have eating disorders .

    >> leslie, so many things contribute to the stereotypes and images that young women see and they are bombarded with images of perfection. how does that impact young girls that start off playing with dolls.

    >> it's barbie , diet pills , air brushed ads, reality shows about plastic surgery. all the forces conspire to make young girls and grown women feel like garbage about ourselves. we look at these images and think we need to measure up. obviously when we see what galia did there is no way we could measure up, nor would we want to.

    >> some people pay for that, but not here. why should parents and educators pay special attention to the message and what galia is trying to put out there. it's brave of you to step out. this is a real awakening.

    >> it's incredibly brave. it happens to millions of young girls and boys , too. what parents need to realize is little kids are so impression nabl. they are like sponges. i don't think either of us are saying burn barbie . we're saying, make sure you are a positive role model to kids and show them. you know, don't refuse to take the cover-up off at the beach because you don't want to be seen in a bathing suit. don't look at yourself in the mirror and talk about being on a diet. have control over the media, magazines, lingerie catalogs that may be ly tossed on the kitchen table. kids soak that up.

    >> thank you. nice job. coming up next, the moment his

Photos: Barbie through the ages

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  1. Barbie, 1959

    The No. 1 Ponytail Barbie sold for $3 in 1959, when it debuted at the New York Toy Fair. Her full name, so you know, is Barbie Millicent Roberts. She's from Willows, Wisc. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fashion Designer Barbie, 1960

    Though Barbie's now one of the world's most famous blondes, back in these days she was available as a brunette, too. Here, Fashion Designer Barbie is clutching her portfolio of clothing sketches. Click through to see how her fashion sense takes an interesting turn, starting in the '70s... (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Open Road Barbie, 1961

    This very Katharine Hepburn look suggests Barbie's about to take a ride in a convertible. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Singer Barbie, 1961

    Starting in the '60s, Barbie girls had the choice of a new hair color -- "Titian" -- which was a term for red hair back then. Other jobs, aside from singer, that were available: nurse, ballerina and flight attendant. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Flight Attendant Barbie, 1961

    Resembling the famous Pan Am stewardesses, this mod Barbie is reminiscent of a day when flying was glamorous. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Red Flare Barbie, 1962

    Check out that swing coat! And that helmet of hair! Barbie's voluminous looks aren't such a far cry from today's runways. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Barbie Fashion Queen, 1963

    With this headgear, Barbie looks a little like an escapee from King Tut's tomb. It was in the mid-'60s that the dolls, including Barbie Fashion Queen, started sporting more elaborate hairstyles. This one apparently didn't like her 'do. (Tom Wolfson / Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Career Girl Barbie,1963

    Isn't this what everyone wears to work? Around this time, Barbie started emulating strong women of her era, from Grace Kelly to Jackie Kennedy. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Miss Barbie, 1964

    Yeah, not sure about this cap. But who doesn't love a good ruffle suit? Miss Barbie was the first doll to feature bendable legs and eyes that open and close. She's also one of the early dolls to have molded hair and come with a variety of wigs. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Astronaut Barbie, 1965

    Astronaut Barbie has made several comebacks over the years, but she debuted in the 60s. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Color Magic Barbie, 1966

    This Barbie's hair came in two colors -- Golden Blonde and Midnight -- that changed to Scarlet Flame and Ruby Red, respectively. Also, her packaging converted into a closet. Mattel was really pulling out all the stops here. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Plush Pony Barbie, 1967

    Doesn't get much more mod than this! As the '60s progressed, so did Barbie's go-go style. Even Barbie looks shocked by this fashionable turn of events. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Twist-n-Turn Barbie, 1967

    While everyone else was twisting and shouting, Barbie was actually twisting. Along with a new, younger face (she's had good work done, no?), new eyelashes and shinier hair, Barbie got the ability to actually spin at the waist. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Smasheroo Barbie, 1968

    The shirtdress, the jacket, the hat, the chain belt, the tights and the boots may be a little much when worn all together, but Barbie does her best to pull it off. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Maxi 'N Mini Fashion Barbie. 1970

    If Barbie wants to get noticed, a faux fur-collared shiny turquoise coat is the way to do it. And why not? The '70s have arrived, and things are about to get funky... (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Cher Barbie, 1970s

    Mattel's Cher Barbie, designed in the 70s, is far out. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Live Action Barbie, 1971

    Need we even point out that it's 1971? This Cher-tastic Barbie takes hippie chic to new levels. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Malibu Barbie, 1971

    Oh, Malibu Barbie. Mattel credits "The Brady Bunch" for putting that easy, breezy California lifestyle on the map, providing the cultural inspiration for this L.A. girl's look. The first doll with an open smile that showed sparkling white teeth, Malibu Barbie also featured a serious tan. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Busy Barbie, 1972

    So much to do, so little time! Let's see. There's that phone call to make, those records to listen to, TV to watch and that trip to take that's so short, I only need this tiny suitcase... (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Surgeon Barbie, 1973

    Scrubs have never looked so fashionable. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Olympic Skier Barbie, 1975

    Look at her go! Her Olympic Ski Village was sold separately (as was Gold Medal Ken Skier). (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. African-American Barbie, 1980

    The African-American Barbie doll debuted in 1980, at the same time as the first Hispanic Barbie. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Hispanic Barbie, 1980

    Barbie was introduced in two new ethnicities during the 80s. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Golden Dream Barbie, 1981

    Just as the '70s were meeting the '80s, this Golden Girl captures the intersection of two fashion moments, mixing shiny and poufy into one awesome jumpsuit. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Roller Skating Barbie, 1981

    Who needs a helmet with hair like that? Roller Skating Barbie was ready to live out her own Xanadu dream. The weird thing is, Roller Skating Ken is wearing a similar outfit. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Designer Denim Barbie, 1982

    Brooke Shields had her Calvin Kleins, and Barbie had these fabulous jeans. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Dream Date Barbie, 1983

    It's not the outfit most of us would choose for our first date. But have you SEEN Barbie's boyfriend? Maybe we should reconsider our strategies. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Day to Night Barbie, 1985

    Every working girl needs an outfit like this: The coat came off to reveal an evening ensemble. No word on where she stashed the briefcase. (Tom Wolfson / Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Astronaut Barbie, 1986

    As women flooded the workforce, Mattel gave Barbie the ultimate job -- and sent her to space! It was one giant leap for dollkind. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Barbie and the Rockers, 1986

    The dawn of MTV gave music a new outlet, and a few years later, Barbie got her own band! (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Fashion Barbie, 1988

    The T-shirt tie is one trend that hasn't resurfaced. So there's that to be grateful for. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Air Force Pilot Barbie, 1991

    In 1989, Barbie joined the Army in a uniform that was even approved by the Pentagon. Two years later, Air Force Pilot Barbie tried to contain her hair in that tiny hat, but failed. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Marine Corps Sergeant Barbie, 1992

    With a jaunty cap and white gloves, Barbie was decked out for battle in a pair of black pumps. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Rapper Barbie, 1992

    So this happened. And in the same year that Barbie ran for president! Their outfits were very different. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Totally Hair Barbie, 1992

    The crimping alone must have taken her hours every morning. To date, she's the best-selling doll of all time, with locks measuring a record-breaking 10.5 inches. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Police Officer Barbie, 1993

    This Barbie meant business...but she also liked to have fun. Her original packaging included a sparkly gold dress. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Scuba Diver Barbie, 1994

    Add scuba diving to the long list of Barbie's myriad activities. Where did she find the time? (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Native American Barbie, 1994

    Part of Mattel's 'Dolls of the World' collection, Native American Barbie is complete with feathers and turquoise accessories. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Firefighter Barbie, 1995

    Complete with a first aid kit, firefighter Barbie debuted in 1995. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Fashion Barbie, 1996

    Barbie's fashion took a funereal turn with this all-black number, at the height of '90s edginess. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Pet Doctor Barbie, 1996

    "Puppy's hurt his leg; kitty's got the flu," said the commercial for this veterinarian Barbie, whose outfit also included pink leggings under that white coat. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Harley Davidson Barbie, 1997

    Just give her a chopper and she's ready to ride! (Tom Wolfson / Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Cool Blue Barbie, 1998

    Remember overalls and blue hair? Barbie does. She had a thumb ring, too. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Major League Baseball, 1998

    Put them in the game, coach! These women are ready to play, even if they're on competing teams. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. NASCAR Driver, 1998

    Ten years before Danica Patrick's historic Indy Car win in 2008, Mattel boasts, Barbie took to the racetrack in this top-heavy jumpsuit. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Working Woman, 1999

    Check out the size of that cellphone! Working Woman Barbie had it all! And carried it all, from the looks of it, in that enormous shoulder bag. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Presidential Candidate, 2004

    What presidential candidate would be without a smart red pantsuit? Hillary Clinton could take a page from Barbie's book: She let her blond locks fly. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Producer Barbie, 2005

    She's tough and she's not taking no for an answer. Though she looks more like a secret agent than a producer here. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Cinco de Mayo Barbie, 2007

    In 2007, Mattel commemorated the May 5, 1862 victory of the Mexican army over the French army at the Battle of Puebla with Cinco de Mayo Barbie. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. TV Chef Barbie, 2008

    Look out, Rachael Ray. Barbie's in the kitchen and she's taking her cooking skills to TV! How's that for an upgrade from the toy kitchen of decades past? (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Computer Engineer Barbie, 2010

    In 1992, a talking Barbie doll made headlines by saying "Math class is tough." By 2010, however, Barbie was wearing a T-shirt printed with a binary code. How's that for coming a long way, baby? (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. News Anchor Barbie, 2010

    This camera-ready Barbie debuted at the New York Toy Fair in 2010. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. China Barbie, 2011

    Part of Barbie's 'Dolls of the World' collection, China Barbie was packaged with a panda, a passport and gold jewelry. (Mattel) Back to slideshow navigation
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