Career

Why EVERYBODY loves social media parody queen Celeste Barber right now

Including us!

By Monique McKenzie

Celeste Barber is the epitome of the woman you want to be best friends with. In a social media world where self-obsession and perfectionism is normalised, and even lauded, she's the needle in a haystack who doesn't suck in, use filters, or Photoshop. Her content is real – so real that it will leave you in belly-aching fits of laughter.

If you aren't already on the bandwagon, then @celestebarber is the account you need to start following. Trust us!

The 36-year-old actress, Instagram star and international comedy sensation from New South Wales rose to fame when she started parodying celebrities on social media, notably Cindy Crawford's Pepsi ad (Celeste's version involves spilling a bottle of Pepsi all over herself).

Celeste has also replicated our very own Lorde's cover shoot for Vogue Australia's October 2017 issue, where the songstress looked ethereal in a clear plastic-covered Calvin Klein fur coat.

Celeste's version sees her wearing a cheap-looking yellow poncho, looking like a drowned rat with wet hair plastered down her face.

"I love a bit of Lorde. It was freezing that day; it was fun."

That self-deprecating humour is why Celeste – whose acting credits include Australian TV shows The Letdown, Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am and webseries Office Correctness – now has a cool 4.8 million Instagram followers.

She's also released her first book, Challenge Accepted! 253 Steps to Becoming an Anti-It Girl, a no-holds barred account of her life, covering everything from drama school to #metoo encounters.

Speaking from Sydney, in a day of back-to-back interviews, Celeste says it feels "pretty excellent" to have finally written her own book.

"It was quite a daunting process and I'm really happy it's done. I recorded the audio book a few weeks ago and when I was reading through it, I was like, 'Yes, I've totally done this and I'm stoked!'"

Naturally, she was inspired to write the book by "a lot of money". By purchasing it, fans are helping her buy school shoes for her kids – "and for that, they say thank you".

Celeste's love of skewering modern life is refreshing for both fans and high-profile celebrities alike. Gwyneth Paltrow has called Celeste "my daily dose of happiness" while Cindy Crawford said, "Celeste Barber makes me laugh and is a daily reminder to not take it all too seriously!"

"I'm very grateful that the people who've embraced me have embraced me as I am, and I don't need to change to fit into anything," says Celeste.

"That's what was so great about Tom Ford. He did his thing and I did my thing and it meshed together so well."

That "thing" involved pashing the famous designer before sitting front row at his SS19 show during New York Fashion Week next to the likes of Anna Wintour.

The American fashion designer first discovered Celeste a few years ago when a friend forwarded one of her posts to him and he began following her on Instagram. In February, she captioned one of her posts, "Hey @tomford my contact details are in my bio."

It clearly worked: the duo recently collaborated in a video spoofing his Boys & Girls lipstick campaign.

Celeste describes sitting front row at Tom Ford as "pretty awesome," and says making out with the designer was "a pretty big moment of me going, 'I might be on to something here.'"

Although, she adds it took "not enough takes to get the pash with Tom just right".

"I wanted to just keep going and going, but we got it right straight up. We're going to be married soon because we're in love with each other. No, he's the best, it was fun, it was his idea for us to kiss."

Alongside Tom, Celeste also counts Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow as "big supporters", while "Cindy Crawford and Iggy Azalea repost my stuff a lot.

Kris Jenner also did a random post on Facebook about me, which was nice. If she hated it, then it would all be over – I think she has the power."

And while the celebrities she parodies would have hours of prep work involved in their shoots, you won't see much preparation going into Celeste's.

Sometimes she'll go and get a few props, but she tries to use what's lying around at home, and that's the point – to look like a normal person would during this type of situation. For Celeste, trying to choose her favourite parody is a little bit like trying to pick her favourite child.

"I like the one of Kate Upton getting out of the pool. It's one of the first ones I did, and it always makes me laugh. I love the videos as well. Her favourite parodies tend to be anything that involves being scantily clad.

"When they're not wearing much it's fun, or just weird poses and people thinking that's the normal way to do stuff. I'm like, 'That's not normal, that's weird! I'm going to show you how weird it is.' But a lot of people send me stuff too. If I get inundated with a particular photo, I'm like, 'I should probably do that.' The people who follow me are excellent. I feel very supported and loved."

Of course, with a large following there's always the haters.

"I have heaps of people telling me I'm fat and I should go away, and that it's not funny. Good on them. Sure, great, whatever blows your hair back. If it makes you feel better telling me that, go nuts. I don't really care."

Celeste isn't big on dishing out advice, she thinks there's far too much of it in the world, especially from people who are famous on Instagram.

"All of a sudden, we think we're doctors. It's best to just get on with it, just do the work. Amy Poehler wrote that, she's like, 'Just do the work. Don't talk about doing the work, just do it.' I live by that."

Having 4.8 million followers on a platform like Instagram, which tends to feed a certain type of self-obsession, might go to someone's head, but not Celeste's.

"At the end of the day, being famous on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly. It doesn't mean much if you haven't got other s* going on as well."

Outside of Instagram, Celeste is equally all about keeping it real. Her self-described #hothusband Apihana Robin, who hails from Gisborne, is an arborist but also now "an excellent stay-at-home dad bossing around home life."

Between them they have four children, teenagers Kyah, 19, and Sahra, 17 – Api's daughters from an earlier relationship – and two boys, Lou, seven, and Buddy, four.

Celeste became a stepmother to Kyah and Sahra at age 21 when she "inherited two girls as a package deal". Aware of the buzz around Instagram, Celeste is adamant about teaching them that social media only has the power you give it.

"I've always said to [Kyah and Sahra] if it doesn't make you feel good or resonate with you, don't get involved, turn it off, walk away from it. I think it's important, so I try and show another side of the perfect world and show that it isn't real and that's okay. It's okay for stuff to not be real, but it's not allowed to dress itself up as though it's real. Because people start to think they need to look a certain way to feel a certain way and I don't like that at all. That's why I'm trying to put a bit of a spin on it and just make stuff funny."

You can expect the same for her book: Celeste says her favourite sentence in Challenge Accepted! is "suck a fart". But she doesn't shy away from the hard stuff either, including detailing the emergency open heart surgery she underwent at age 25 after doctors discovered she had a hole in her heart.

"Writing about heart surgery was pretty full on, but it was quite cathartic. I enjoyed it. I mean, I can say I enjoyed [writing] it now because I've done it. When I was actually doing it I hated it. It's kind of like labour: when you're in it you think you'll never survive, and after you're like, 'Oh, I could probably do that again.'"

Going places

Celeste encourages anyone who reads Challenge Accepted! to have a laugh, and hopefully get an insight into her as more than just a person who takes unflattering photos of herself.

Would she write another book? She reckons she would. Not now though, and she'll have to go to Fiji for six months to write it, obviously. But before that, she's got Challenge Accepted! coming out overseas, her tour of the US at the end of the year and hopefully a UK tour next year.

There might even be a New Zealand tour and another opportunity to pash 
Tom Ford again – all while maintaining her status as the ultimate anti-It Girl. Oh, and trying to see her kids at some point.

It's a busy life for Celeste, and before I know it, it's time to wrap up our chat. I end by asking if we can be BFFs.

Her response? "Get your people to talk to my people and we'll hook up best friend status straight away."

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