Art doll

This artist turned Ken’s voice actor into a real Ken doll

🎵 Life in plastic is fantastic. 🎵

I think it’s fair to say that Barbie has been making a lot of headlines these days thanks to the upcoming live-action movie starring Margot Robbie.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

But if you’ve followed Barbie’s TV and film career over the years, then you know she was the star of her own Netflix series called Barbie’s Adventures in the Dreamhouseand most recently starred in the film, Barbie: It takes two.

And alongside Barbie on her adventures is her trusty best friend, Ken (yes, best friend).

Actor Ritesh Rajan, who you’ve seen in shows and movies like Russian doll, definition pleaseand The jungle Book, has voiced this version of Ken in the series and spin-off films since 2018.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

And thanks to South Asian artist Tanya Gupta, Ritesh is now a real Ken doll!

Tanya, who previously worked in aerospace engineering, created the images as part of her residency with the Adobe Creative Residency program (of which she was the first Native American resident) and sought to “challenge what we consider to be” the coup modern heart “and the patterns we find synonymous with leading men in Hollywood.”

Tanya told BuzzFeed, “I’m happy to say that I think we’re finally seeing a lot more diversity and representation on screen. The cast of any holiday rom-com that inevitably pops up on Netflix will tell you that ‘Prince Charming’ trope isn’t as simple as it used to be. Being an idol doesn’t just mean having a certain appearance (often white, blonde, blue-eyed) – but rather having the presence of a leading man.

She continued, “Seriously, one look at the comments section of a photo of Ritesh in Russian doll and you’ll see for yourself how he steals hearts on and off screen. By featuring designs that we find synonymous with a character like Ken – expertly golfing, only three degrees of freedom in his limbs, still having his daughter Barbie’s back – I wanted to capture that fantasy in a new twist with the Tesh doll.”

Tanya first got the idea to make the “Tesh Doll” when she first got involved with Barbie in 2020 as part of a series she called “Tanya Dolls.” They were each inspired by the career Barbies she played with growing up, and included ‘Astronaut Tanya’, ‘Entrepreneur Tanya’ and ‘Self-care Tanya’, among others.

Tanya and Ritesh connected via Instagram after Ritesh expressed his admiration for her work. Ritesh told BuzzFeed, “I think it’s important to see people representing you in the media. Seeing me as a doll reinforced the importance of representation. Tanya’s vision and all of her work was also very impressive. His ability to combine his own heritage and personality his style with pop culture was infectious. People should know that intention and emotion come first. That’s what struck me about his work.

The whole process took Tanya over 100 hours to create, from ideation to finished product. And while it’s generally a one-man show when it comes to art direction, set design, styling, modeling, photography and editing, she called on Alisa Radoi for hair and makeup, Venk Modur for the styling and Tatiana Miralaeff for the decor. assistance.

And although 100 hours seems like a lot, it was – in fact – a project years in the making. Tanya, who previously had a career in engineering with companies like IBM and NASA, learned Photoshop on her own at the start of the pandemic and practiced an average of 3-5 hours a day.

She said: “Over the months my skills have grown so much that I’ve gone from sharing progress on my Instagram to partnering with brands like Tom Ford Beauty, Bliss, Aerie and Lancome.” This Adobe residency then offered her the opportunity to marry her two professional backgrounds and combine her love for technology and art into one.

Ritesh thought the experience was surreal, but considering he had been Ken for as long as he had been, he felt comfortable doing the transformation. He said: “I think I learned more about the character because it turned into physical exercise for me to explore the character, both as a cartoon and a plastic doll. walked away from the experience feeling closer to the character than ever before. I’m still a really bad surfer, something Ken excels at.”

“I have parents who watch the show with their children and they just say thank you or just positive words saying how much they appreciate the show. People grow up with Barbie and then share those memories with the next generations. Coming from an immigrant family, it means a lot to me to be able to portray the modern Ken – while being the first Asian to do so! He is truly an honor and one of my favorite characters to play.

On that same note, Tanya said, “It’s incredibly refreshing to see South Asian representation in the entertainment industry, and I intended with this project to spotlight someone who I think , deserves a moment out of the box and into the spotlight, so to speak.”

Courtesy of Tanya Gupta

As for what Tanya hopes people will take away from this “Tesh doll” series, she told BuzzFeed, “We artists produce work that is the culmination of our collective experiences and imaginations. mine just plays on the nostalgia of the classic Americana toy – heavily influenced by Barbie. I would be remiss if I didn’t address what a looping moment this project was for me. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such an amazing team to help me turn my silly little sketches into the celebrity editorial of my dreams.”

“Ritesh is a talent that I believe deserves recognition for the progress he has made as a Native American actor in Hollywood. I hope the world will see that in the way he is portrayed in these images. , and I hope to have the opportunity to elevate the presence of other equally deserving artists in the future.”

Ritesh ended by explaining how he is trying to redefine what a leading man is in his own career. “The idea of ​​a leading man is evolving for the better and that’s something I deal with in my own career. Breaking down stereotypes and pushing art and culture forward is important…it’s a way of spread this awareness. I hope people can find inspiration in my work and it will lead to a new group of artists finding their unique voices and promoting their own points of view. If you have a dream, work on your craft and pursue it with hard work, focus, love and passion.”

Courtesy of Tanya Gupta

“If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’ve missed it! Get on Netflix now and watch it!”

If you want to see more of Tanya’s surreal and out-of-this-world art, follow her on Instagram and TikTok. And if you want to follow Ken himself, aka Ritesh, follow him on Instagram.

Support AAPI-centric content by exploring how BuzzFeed is celebrating Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month! Of course, the content doesn’t end after May. Go follow @buzzfeedapop to keep up with our latest AAPI content all year round! PS Love this art? Learn more about these amazing AAPI activists here.