Celeste Barber never set out to be a social media star. “I just wanted to make people laugh,” she says, referring to her Instagram series, #CelesteChallengeAccepted, in which she creates side- by-side parodies of some of the most smoldering celebrity photos. Five million–plus followers later, Barber is an Internet phenom with an A-list following. Bazaar chatted with the 37-year-old Aussie about fashion, Hollywood, and self-image.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: We just saw you mimic a photo that was in Bazaar! It was Hailey Bieber grocery shopping in a swimsuit with slippers. It’s sort of a compliment to get the Celeste Barber treatment now.
CELESTE BARBER: That photo of Hailey was scary to do. I usually don’t ask permission.
HB: Do celebrities or models ever get upset when you re-create their pics?
CB: The opposite. I get big-name celebs sending me direct messages:“Please do this one of me!”
HB: What’s the best comment you’ve ever received from a celebrity?
CB: January Jones wrote, “Celeste Barber is the new stuck with me.
HB: What’s your process like?
CB: I don’t like to talk about it because it’s never as interesting as people want it to be. It’s not Gaga getting ready for the Met Gala.
“I focus on who I am and how I make people feel. How I look is the least interesting part of me.”
HB: What’s your favorite parody that you’ve done?
CB: That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child! I would say the one where I redid a Cindy Crawford Pepsi commercial. [The clip contrasts Crawford seductively drinking from a can of Pepsi with Celeste chugging an exploding bottle of soda, caramel foam all over her shirt.] I had Cindy on my podcast, and I asked her how she made it look so hot.
HB: How did you first get the idea for the challenge?
CB: When I saw the ridiculous selfies that people posted, I thought, “What would it look like if a normal person did the same thing on a Wednesday?” Also, I wanted to show other body types.
HB: It may not have been your intention, but a lot of people seem inspired by your ability to put yourself out there, often wearing next to nothing.
CB: We should all feel confident about ourselves, but so much focus is on the wrong fucking stuff. I focus on who I am and how I make people feel. How I look is the least interesting part of me.
HB: Well, you looked great in your Tom Ford videos, where you’re a “supermodel” in his runway show. How did that come about?
CB: I got an e-mail from his people saying, “Tom Ford loves you.” I was like, “Beg your pardon?” I didn’t know he was a fan. Working with him was paradise.
HB: Fashion people really adore you.
CB: It’s funny, a girl on the street said, “I used to work at Tom Ford, and we love you!”Then she said, “Would you like some free stuff?” I was like, “Fuck, yeah, where are we going?”
HB: Okay, so who do you really want to parody that you haven’t?
CB: I’d love to do a perfume commercial. I’ll be Charlize Theron saying, “J’adore!”
Celeste Barber, host of the podcast Celeste & Her Best and author of the new book Challenge Accepted!, is currently on tour in North America and Europe.
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This article originally appears in the August 2019 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, available on newsstands July 23.
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