Since Barbie Ferreira was a professional model before joining the cast of HBO’s Euphoria, you’d think she might have to dig deep to relate to her character Kat Hernandez’s body insecurity. But, like Kat, Ferreira had to go on a personal journey to find self-acceptance and confidence.
“I was very insecure with my body for a long time,” says Ferreira in an interview with InStyle, relating her personal experience to that of Hernandez. “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.”
For the uninitiated, Euphoria follows a group of California high school students navigating controversial subjects like drugs, trauma and sexuality. Among them is Kat, a high school junior with an affinity for writing erotic fan fiction. She amassed a huge following as an anonymous writer on the Internet, but in real life, she struggled to figure out how she fit in.
The catalyst of Hernandez’s extreme transformation is when she loses her virginity and finds that the entire rendezvous was recorded (without her permission) and posted to a porn website. From this point on, viewers watch Hernandez transform, both in her appearance and mindset and even takes up webcam-ing as a hobby. This new experience makes her feel powerful, sexy and confident in her body.
Ferreira goes on to explain how she felt connected to her onscreen character. “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.”
In the show, Hernandez uses the money she makes from her cam videos on everything from chokers and dog collars to mini leather skirts and lace-up bustiers. Her new look (and confidence!) makes her stand out in a crowd, and she thrives off of the attention. According to Ferreira via Instyle, costume designer Heidi Bivens helped to bring these edgy looks to life. “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,” says Ferreira. “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.”
And, of course, it’s important to touch on the show’s graphic, sometimes x-rated scenes. These parts of the show are purposeful and Ferreira deems it important to present dangerous power dynamics — like her character’s relationships with adult men on the Internet. “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.”
Ferreira hopes that Hernandez’s complicated journey to self-confidence inspires the next great narrative. “There are so many more storylines with fat people. I can only represent myself, and it doesn’t unpack all the layers of fat-phobia. It is a step in the right direction.”