Want to know how Barbie Ferreira is feeling? Look at her hair.
In 2016, the 19-year-old turned Tumblr fame into a modeling career for brands like American Apparel and Aerie, wearing her hair in long, luminous black waves — industry-standard and hyper-feminine. About two years later, Ferreira leveled up again, snagging a starring role on HBO’s buzzy teen show Euphoria as a body-conscious teen who journeys from revenge porn victim to sexually liberated cam girl. At the show’s direction, Ferreira sported a sleek bob with a severe side part.
Today, though, Ferreira is 23 years old and has a grown-out shag mullet.
She first adopted the retro cut last fall while filming her new movie Unpregnant, available on HBO Max Thursday. She plays Bailey Butler, a loner teen gamer in Missouri who accompanies her ex-best friend Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) on a cross-country road trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is home to the closest abortion clinic that doesn’t require parental permission.
For the first time in nearly a decade, no one controlled her hair. Ferreira decided she wanted to sport a black mullet with green highlights, so she did. It’s fitting she’s taking control at a time when she’s living her most authentic self. Filming began last October in Albuquerque, just a few months after Ferreira came out publicly as queer in an interview with Out.
Even though she only has three major acting credits under her belt (in 2018, she played a model on another HBO show, Divorce), Ferreira is suddenly an in-demand actress. But her influence extends far beyond on the screen. Having found fame online, she’s maintained an enviable presence on Instagram, where she contributed to the queer rebirth of the mullet.
Barbie may no longer be a teen, but she damn sure knows how to represent one.
I’m obsessed with what you’re wearing. What is this look?
This is an Ottolinger. I saw it on [model] Paloma Elsesser in GQ, and I was like, I want to look like Paloma. [Laughs] I want to wear that. You know, it’s very rare to find things that fit someone who is not a sample size. Shout out to Paloma.
Since we’re talking about fashion, I wanted to ask you about your shag mullet in the film. The mullet is queer now. Are you still rocking one?
Yes, it’s kind of a grown-out mullet now. I had a very severe mullet because I was feeling free. [Laughs] I was feeling good. I had a really short mullet at one point, and it was really fun. This is some strategic hair magic from Sylvia Wheeler, but yes, I do have the mullet underneath this.
What made you want to do the mullet?
I haven’t had the opportunity to do anything with my hair because I started modeling at 16, so I’ve kind of gone all out. In six months, I dyed my hair, like, [three] times: bright green, bright blue, bright red. Sometimes I didn’t post about it because it’s embarrassing — like, it actually came out terrible. [Laughs] I was excited to have the freedom to play with my look and actually cut my hair to what I want it to look like. It had been years since I could have that kind of autonomy.
You did red hair at one point?
I did. It was so awful. It was bits of pink, almost red.
I’ve been thinking about doing a red, like what Saoirse Ronan has in Lady Bird, but I’m concerned about how dark our hair is! You know, we got to do the double bleach…
That’s what I’m saying. The bleach was killing me, oh my god. I want to do like a bright, bright red for sure, but I think I’m just going to do a wig. My hair was virgin hair for a second because I had cut it really short for Euphoria. Then I went a little in. The blue was nice, although it never really existed for more than two weeks. I started swimming in the water, and it just turned blond.
So, Unpregnant. Bailey’s look is a bit hodgepodge but also a little Billie Eilish. Did you collaborate on the look?
Yeah, I really love collaborating on the character’s look. It’s one of my favorite parts of acting because it really helps me get into character if I change my hair and the way I walk in the clothes and my demeanor. I’m a theater kid. I would wear costumes to school randomly, not just during Halloween.
How one dresses and chooses to wear their hair and makeup really tells a lot about themselves. So for Bailey, I worked with Matthew Simonelli from costumes on a lot of different clothes and what it means to be awkward because you’re a teenager. But then you visibly want to be different. That’s what Bailey wants. Bailey is like, I’m different than y’all and I know more than you guys. You guys are all stupid.
The gas station look, I really love. Bailey would obviously be thrifting a lot and finding funny things online, like on eBay. Things that are kind of silly and not too serious or sophisticated. Like socks: Have them bright. The shorts: Have anime on it. I just really wanted it to look true to what a teenage girl would look like in 2020.
The plot of Unpregnant starts in Missouri. One of the great things about the film is your character’s queer awakening occurs in the middle of the country. You’re from New York though, right?
Yes, I am from New York, so definitely a different experience. But you know, I lived in a suburb in New Jersey for a little bit, which is by no means the Midwest, but it gave me a look into the suburban life and suburban dream that America sells to people. I was aware of what it was like to live in like a suburb that was really close-knit… like, in a bad way. [Laughs] Everyone knows each other’s business.
So with Bailey, a lot of inspiration was her completely detaching from that. [She] can’t wait to graduate, to leave the Midwest and go somewhere where she can feel fully accepted. A lot of it was her being a loner because she couldn’t relate to people around her, which I also related to in high school. It was a lot of that and it was a lot of her having her own opinions that other people don’t necessarily agree with. When people don’t look like her, she [feels] like the complete opposite of everything around her.
What I love about her is she’s so confident. But when it comes to her sexuality, she’s a little nervous, which feels so legitimate. Is that your own experience? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you identify as queer?
Yes, I do. I’m dating a woman. [Laughs]
Oh, nice. Congrats.
Yes! [Laughs] Wait, can you repeat the question?
Yeah, I am curious about your experience. What I love and find relatable about Bailey is she’s so confident but her sexuality is the thing that’s frightening.
Yes, so, I definitely relate to this. I came into my queerness a little bit later, after a lot of failed attempts at heterosexuality. [Laughs] I gave it a good go.
So I remember being pretty grown but still feeling so shy and almost virginal in a lot of ways with new experiences. So I totally related to Bailey. Flustered and very nervous the first time kissing someone. That’s what makes Bailey so funny is that she is just so quick-witted, but when it comes to a crush of hers, it’s like, “Oh, blah blah blah.” She’s very quiet or says the wrong thing and is very visibly different from what she usually is. It’s pretty funny to me and also extremely accurate. [Laughs]
How is it working with Haley Lu Richardson? You guys have such distinctive styles for teens.
Haley is, like, the coolest person. She’s just very goofy and silly. Also, an incredible actor. Just a great person and so kind and so sweet. This was my first movie, but this is not her first movie. So it was a lot of me asking her [questions], a lot of support for each other. It was magical. I really don’t know how I could have done it with anyone else or how that dynamic would have been, because she and I had such a great bond and we would annoy the heck out of everyone. [Laughs]
With Unpregnant and Euphoria, people love the nuanced teen representation. But you and I are both 23. We’re not actually teens. How do you feel about being a “teen voice”? I know I don’t always love having to take on that.
Well, I feel like I’m a teenager because I am obsessed with YouTube, TikTok and Instagram memes. It’s like, you name it, I’m on it. I connect more with teens than I do older people because I grew up on the internet. So I like it. I feel like I have a deep understanding of being a teenager while also having some hindsight. So it’s, like, the best of both worlds. I’m still up-to-date with what teenagers do, but I can also be like, I’m past that. [Laughs]