American actress and model Barbie Ferreira, a full-figured star of the popular HBO teen drama television series "Euphoria," says she has been pleasantly surprised to find that complex, multi-dimensional roles are available to her despite her size and that she can remain true to herself.
While growing up in a Brazilian immigrant family in New Jersey, Ferreira says she had previously thought her career prospects would be limited if she did not have Hollywood's accepted body type.
"I always wanted to be an actor when I was a kid, and I always had the kind of mindset that I have to lose weight to be an actor. No one would ever take me seriously" otherwise, the 22-year-old said in an interview with EFE in Miami following HBO's decision to renew the series for a second season.
"And if I was a bigger actor, I'd be the funny best friend or some kind of stereotype like that" and be "defined by being chubby, unattractive, and all this one-dimensional stuff," she recalled.
With her character in "Euphoria," a series in which American actress and singer Zendaya plays the lead role, she has avoided the trap of being pigeonholed.
Kat Hernandez (Ferreira) is a girl with insecurities about her weight and body shape who starts gaining confidence through a persona she adopts on the Internet.
Speaking about the choices her character makes, Ferreira says they are part of her process of growing up.
"You can't tell a 16-year-old what to do without them experiencing it. So I think Kat is making moves to kind of see what she likes and how she feels powerful in her own skin. So I probably would just (say to her), 'stay safe.' You know ... as long as it's in a safe manner, I'm good with that. Because she's not going to learn until she experiences" things for herself," the actress said.
"Euphoria" is Ferreira's third project as an actor.
Like her character, she got her start on the Internet by publishing videos on social networking Web site Tumblr. She then caught the attention of a clothing company while working at one of their stores and having photos taken in which she modeled the brand's underwear.
The company hired Ferreira as a model for its lingerie line, and the success of that campaign - and her efforts to champion the body positivity movement - landed her on Time magazine's list of the "30 Most Influential Teens" for 2016.
Ferreira, who has refused to be defined as an activist and subsequently turned down offers from brands with products aimed at plus-sized women, launched a series of videos in tandem with the publication Vice.
Titled "How to Behave," the videos offer tips to girls in areas such as make-up, fashion, sex and family relations.
Ferreira said she grew up with her mother and grandmother in New Jersey in an environment of strong women and no "masculine energy in the home."
"It was all these strong women who really loved themselves. My mom was the first one to be like 'I'm gorgeous, I'm beautiful,' and that is just so powerful," the actress said.
"In my family, they are just so outspoken. They're loud. They're funny. They are complex. Like sometimes I hate them, sometimes I love them. And ... a lot of women don't get that ... they're not allowed to have all those layers to them."
As she grew up, she found that women in American society were receiving very different messages.
"It was more (a message of being) shy, more together, more submissive if you will. So I think that having this ... really dominant, amazing Brazilian family .. they take up space in a room, which I think is very special."
In contrast with other shows about teens, Ferreira said "Euphoria" is filled with complex storylines.
"Nothing is the stereotypical high school archetype ... It's so amazing to me." EFE-EPA