Sold out! Sold out! Sold out! This was New York City’s reaction to the last three days of Celeste Barber’s show in the U.S.A, which ended the Australian comedian’s tour in that country last July. This proves the Celeste Barber “phenomenon” is still growing way beyond the five million people who follow her on Instagram, the place where everything began in 2015, with #celestechallengeaccepted. And what was meant to be “a simple experience” turned into the vertiginous path that brought her here, giving her a celebrity status and bringing her to the cover of Vogue Portugal. It all happened because Celeste Barber makes us laugh at ourselves.
Celeste Barber’s job is to make us laugh. But the comedian does much more than that. When she started the #celestechallengeaccepted as a joke on Instagram, Celeste dared to do what so many people in the world wanted to: satirize the sumptuous life of the rich and the staged poses of the famous. Celeste’s targets are celebrities we all know – Rihanna, Miranda Kerr, Victoria Beckham, the Kardashian clan, Cara Delevingne, Jennifer Lopez, Alessandra Ambrosio, Hailey Baldwin, or Jessica Alba. Supermodels and the snobbery of the Fashion world are the comedian’s most desirable targets because, as she says in the written interview she gave us, it has become important to spread the message that women do not have to be perfect in order to be beautiful, interesting or sexy. Not for the picture, nor for the world, nor to anyone but themselves. That is the real power.
“I know I do not fit into the perfect body concept, and I am more than O.K. with that. My image was never my best feature. I love to make people laugh, and I love receiving people’s love because of that”, she says. Exposing the body is part of her job as an actress and, as she confirms, it is not something that concerns her. Especially since her body, with curves and untoned, perfectly suits the message of positive body acceptance she wants to convey. However, it is not easy to draw a line between the artist and the woman, if there was ever one, in this one woman show. #Hothusband was how the comedian presented her husband to the world, and he appears on several of her sketches, playing the stereotype of the attractive and muscled man. But Celeste’s husband, Api Robin, who is also a little rising start on Instagram (124.000 followers in the @Hothusband account), really is an attractive and muscled man. Commenting their relationship, Celeste even said: “I am hilarious, and you are breath-taking”. The show must go on!
When she parodies another “celebrity”, Celeste Barber makes a caricature of what she considers to be a “normal” woman living “normality”, which is appearing on the social media falling from high heels, wearing a bathing suit two sizes below appropriate, spilling a daiquiri before 10 A.M., seating beside an empty swimming pool. This is how Celeste tests the limits of taste and humor. When she recreates the high standards of celebrity’s lives, or the extravagant Fashion sense of the fashionistas, she shows herself slouching, disheveled, with dark circles under her eyes, clumsy, disconcerting. Good taste or bad taste? Does humor even care about that? What does Celeste think about the limits of humor and about her peers – the comedians? “People may do what they want. But that does not mean I will like it or think it is funny. But I do admire many comedians. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Rhys Nicholson, Ricky Gervais, Katherine Ryan, Jim Carrey.” We all think Celeste answers the question, without totally compromising herself. Which may mean the actress needs that operating space to keep doing what she does with total freedom.
“I started doing those photos imitating celebrities to make people laugh and to draw attention to the way the industry treats women, as objects instead of people.” Not only does she still play with that freedom, as she relies on the industry’s fair-play – and they adore her. All things considered Celeste Barber seems to be unstoppable. On Instagram, on her shows or during the promotion tours of her book, Challenge Accepted: 253 Steps to Becoming an Anti-it Girl, regarding which the actress Reese Witherspoon has already said: “prepare to laugh.” We were not expecting anything else. Celeste Barber does what she wants, how she wants and with whom she wants. Celebrities worship her. Tom Ford made out with her – and not with technical kisses. Is Celeste still the anti-it girl, or is she reinventing the concept? After all, we are talking about her in Vogue. She is on our cover, and who is she sharing the spotlight with? Irina Shayk, who is just one of the most popular girls in the universe. Celeste is not where she began. But neither are we, nor is the world.
“Sharing the cover of Vogue Portugal with Irina is very chic. And it is very positive that magazines such as Vogue make productions where we can see woman of all shapes and sizes. We still do not know each other personally, but I have always admired her work as a model. Irina is probably the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” Beauty dazzles us and humor disarms us. Celeste Barber accepted the challenge of being transformed into this “celestial body” when she chose to study acting, around ten years ago. “I have a degree in acting, but I have always enjoyed comedy. I always saw myself as an actress, the only difference between what was happening in the beginning of my career and now is that now I have a job.” A recognized job that confirms Celest is in the right path.
The comedian entered several TV shows in Australia (All Saints, How not to Behave or The Letdown), but it was Instagram that made Celeste Barber famous – and criticized. “People know me for being honest. I always speak my mind. I know what I am doing and the power that I have. I know what humor is, and I know when a joke is good and will make people laugh. I do not read negative things people may say about me. People may not like me, but that does not bother me at all.” Who does like Celeste is Elizabeth Banks, the American actress and co-founder of the platform WhoHaha, which promotes and supports the work of comedians and, in 2017, nominated Celeste for the WhoHaha Funniest Lady on Instagram Award. And Celeste won. “I was very happy with that award. I love Elizabeth Banks. The fact that she recognized my work was very important for me, it was incredible.”
It is unlikely that the comedian’s killer instinct gets switched off because, for her, “after you wet your panties laughing, nothing will ever look as serious.” But if there is something fame does is take itself seriously. And when you have many famous friends, do you really want to get in trouble with them on Instagram? “I have made fun of Beyoncé, so I guess nobody is safe,” shots Celeste, sure that she can change the world, one celebrity at a time. “Humor can really change the world. People need to laugh more.” And that is what Celeste does, even when life turns her around and makes us “uncomfortable”. How? The woman that the whole world has seen in positions the common mortal would pay not to fall into the wrong hands knows what modesty is? “I am embarrassed to read in public. That situation frightens me.” Yes, reading in public can be highly disturbing. Especially when we know people who are listening to us no longer need to imagine how we are at home.