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Alexandra Shipp: Barbie Shows the Beauty of a Matriarchal Society

Alexandra Shipp: Barbie Shows the Beauty of a Matriarchal Society

Alexandra Shipp: Barbie Shows the Beauty of a Matriarchal Society

Out cover star Alexandra Shipp is proud to be in a feminist film showcasing the power of the matriarchy.

It’s Barbie’s world — and we should all be living in it. At least that’s the sentiment shared by out actress Alexandra Shipp, one of the stars of Greta Gerwig’s new film Barbie.

“I feel like I would thrive in a matriarchal society. In today’s day and age, who wouldn’t love that?” she says about getting to immerse herself in Gerwig’s feminist, queer-inclusive, and diverse-as-hell vision for the Warner Bros. live-action movie centering the famous Mattel doll.

In the magical, colorful, over-the-top universe of the film — appropriately named “Barbieland” — the outfits are always chic, the hair and makeup are always on point, the handsome Ken dolls are secondary players awaiting your beck and call, and every day ends in sleepovers and perfectly choreographed dance sequences to pop bops from Dua Lipa and Lizzo. But most importantly, the Barbies hold leadership roles. It was for this reason Shipp says she was so excited to be a part of Barbie.

“Women get things done,” Shipp says. “Women and female-identifying people have this really beautiful, maternal way of looking at the world that is empathetic and loving and inclusive. And being a part of that, even if it was just playing make-believe in a scene, we got to see a real influx of individuality. It was just such a utopia.”


Made for Barbie fans of all generations (and even her critics), the film tells the story of the childhood icon (played by two-time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie) and the start of her disillusionment with the only world she’s ever known.

When Barbie starts to “malfunction” and question whether or not she wants to live her happy-go-lucky life, she must venture into the big, unknown “real world” to look for answers. With her very own Ken (Ryan Gosling) by her side, she ends up learning that while the real world isn’t perfect, there’s a lot that she can learn from it. And despite all of Barbieland’s faults, perhaps there’s something that humans can learn from dolls as well.

While there is something mildly dystopian about Barbieland, Gerwig and co-writer/partner Noah Baumbach have created a perfectly tongue-in-cheek version of a world where women and femininity are celebrated instead of being shut down and oppressed. And as a viewer in the real world, where toxic masculinity still rules (both at the box office and in real life), it was truly a sight to behold.

“It was fabulous,” Shipp recalls of seeing all the Barbie magic unfold for the first time, noting that like the matriarchal world of the film, the set was equally matriarchal when being run by Greta and Robbie. “We got to the set, and we walked in, and we walked on the grass, and we started following that little yellow brick road. And I just started crying. It’s the femmest thing I’ve ever done…I was like, ‘Look at these two- to four-story Barbie Dreamhouses! It’s a cul-de-sac. You’ve got everything and everyone!’ And it was so massive and up to scale that the little girl in me started just crying. Because that was a dream, to actually live in a fly-ass Barbie Dreamhouse.”


It’s also not lost on Shipp, who came out in 2021 and who is one of multiple queer actors in Barbie (including fellow cover stars Hari Nef and Scott Evans), the close connection the doll has had with members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially in childhood.

Depending on how they were raised (and how strict gender norms were in that upbringing), folks of all identities and expressions were either given Barbie dolls as some of their first playthings or had to admire them from afar. And while Barbies do represent something special to a lot of women, Shipp points out that anyone can play with Barbie, and anyone can see themselves in her, which is what makes seeing a diverse, inclusive cast in the film so inspiring.

“When we wipe the slate clean, when we take away all the other stuff, and we just talk about identity and representation, we can do and be anything,” she continues. “I think that that’s what Barbie represents, a state of being where we can do and be anything. We can dress however we want to dress. I could win a Nobel Prize for being a writer and still be in hot pink, six-inch heels, and a silk miniskirt. What we look like does not define who we are.”

Though queer inclusion was directly woven into the fabric of Barbie, that’s not the only form of representation it provides. With a star-studded cast featuring Insecure’s Issa Rae, Marvel star Simu Liu, Ritu Arya, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa, Barbie also provides representation to many people of color. Considering the long, complicated history of the Barbie brand and Mattel centering blond-haired, blue-eyed, skinny, able-bodied white women, for a film to be able to correct that tide was, in Shipp’s words, “really beautiful” to see.

“I understand my privilege being biracial and lighter complexion within this industry,” she shares, “but what was beautiful about the casting of this movie, which I think Greta did a really great job of, was she showed the spectrum, she showed the gradient. To be able to have young girls not only see someone of my complexion but of Issa’s or Ncuti’s, I think that that’s so important and so invaluable.”

“There wasn’t just one person,” she adds, “there were multiple people providing forms of multiple representation, whether it was Black, Asian, Latinx…there’s a little lick of us everywhere. And not only a lick of us but a spectrum. You can’t just have one Black person. And that was never Greta’s thought.”

While Barbie is one of the major highlights of Shipp’s filmography, she has already established herself in acclaimed titles like Tick, TickBoom! and Love, Simon — not mention the X-Men franchise as Storm. But she is hoping to take the boundary-pushing spirit of Barbie with her into the next stage of her career.

“I want to tell brilliant queer stories. I want to tell brilliant people of color’s stories. I want to tell wonderful women’s stories and female-identifying stories,” Shipp says about her future. “I’d like to take on projects where I can take people from my community, and I can lift them into the light. That’s what I want to do with my life.”


During a summer when fun is back at the box office, Barbie is going to be a standout for fans who want to see one of their favorite nostalgic brands move toward progress and inclusion, and Shipp is excited for viewers watching the film to feel the same way she did in helping to create it.

“What I’m most excited for is for the audience to have the moment that I had when I first walked on that set and I cried,” she says. “I’m excited for people to see all the hard work. Hundreds of people put their blood, sweat, and tears into this, and it looks insane. And I want people to have that moment, the minute the movie starts and they see Barbieland in all of its Barbieland greatness. And then I want them to pay attention to the story and what we’re talking about, because this is a feminist movie, hands down, hand to heart. This is a feminist movie, and I want people to take note and digest that. Please digest that, because matriarchal society is what the world needs.”

Experience the Barbie feeling more in Out's interview with Greta Gerwig and the profiles of Nef and Evans. And don’t miss the Barbie movie, which comes out in theaters July 21.

This cover story is part of the Out July/August issue, out on newsstands July 4. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.


Photographer KIM NEWMONEY @kimnewmoney
Digitech & BTS Stills ASH MARTINEZ @ashislikesocool
Grip & Lighting ADHAM ELNASHAI @adham9621
Videographer SANTIAGO BISSO @santiagobisso
Props TIFFANY LUKE @tlukesss
Venue SMASHBOX STUDIOS @smashboxstudios

Scott's Stylist DANIELA ROMERO @daniela_viviana
Scott's Hair & Makeup JOSHUA LEE STINNETT @joshuastinnett

Hari's Stylist CHRIS HORAN @chrishoran20
Hari's Assistant Stylists GREER HEAVRIN @greerheavrin SANAM CELINE @sanamceline
Hari's Hair SAMI KNIGHT @samiknighthair
Hari's Makeup ALEXANDRA FRENCH @alexandraafrench

Alex's Stylist ALEXANDRA MANDELKORN @mandelkorn
Alex's Hair KIM KIMBLE @kimblehaircare
Alex's Makeup DANA DELANEY @danadelaney

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.