A talented multi-lingual psychology student has spoken out about how she isn't taken seriously because she loves the fake Barbie look.
Ashton Clarke, 22, is currently a clinical psychology research assistant and student at The University of Tennessee, and hopes to obtain a PhD. She also speaks four languages and is an exhibited artist.
However, despite her accomplishments, Ashton says her fondness for the 'fake' look means that she is often underestimated by her peers.
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Ashton Clarke, 22, a talented multi-lingual psychology student at Tennessee University, has spoken out about how she isn't taken seriously because she loves the fake Barbie look
At the age of 16, Ashton, from Knocksville, Tennessee, gave herself a dramatic makeover and started styling herself like a Barbie doll. Pictured just before her transformation
At the age of 16, Ashton gave herself a dramatic makeover and started styling herself like a Barbie doll. To emulate the look, she dyes her hair blonde, applies fake tan, undergoes lip fillers and wears contouring make-up, false eyelashes, hair extensions and coloured contact lenses.
Although Ashton, from Knoxville, Tennessee, feels happier and more confident as 'Barbie', people are quick to judge her on appearance.
Ashton said: 'For years, I was terrified of doing the "Barbie look" because I thought people would make fun of me.
'But for me when I look "fake", I feel more like "me" than I ever have in my life. This is how I like to look. It may not be natural but it's "me".
'People are always so taken back when they meet me because I don't fit into the stereotypical mould they've placed me in because of my "artificial' appearance. They expect me to be an airhead or shallow.'
Ashton is currently a clinical psychology research assistant and student at The University of Tennessee, USA - and hopes to obtain a PhD. She also speaks four languages and is an exhibited artist. Pictured before (left) and after (right) her 'Barbie' transformation
In spite of her accomplishments, Ashton says her fondness for the 'fake' look means that she is often underestimated by her peers
Ashton has gained a considerable online following through her inventive make-up tips and extraordinary before-and-after photos.
She hopes to challenge the Barbie stereotype.
Ashton continued: 'There are so many individuals who believe that you can't be a successful academic whilst also dedicating time to your appearance.
'I want to show that it is possible. Make-up is an art and looking like a Barbie is just one of my many interests.'
As a child, Ashton - who speaks Norwegian, Persian and Spanish as well as her native English - suffered from acute shyness.
Ashton said: 'Growing up, I was extraordinarily shy. But when I was around 14-years-old I came across a book about theatrical make-up.
To emulate the look, Ashton dyes her hair blonde, applies fake tan, undergoes lip fillers and wears contouring make-up, false eyelashes, hair extensions and coloured contact lenses
Ashton said she was painfully shy as a teenager (left) and so she emulated the Barbie look in the hope it would give her confidence (right)
At first Ashton was too nervous to wear her Barbie look in public, and says that people do judge her on her appearance, particularly in academic circles
'I was fascinated with all the methods and materials that can be used to transform a face.
'I had always associated the "Barbie look" with confidence and, being so painfully shy, the possibility of feeling confident and beautiful was very appealing.
'It's also a look that was so opposite to my natural appearance. I started viewing physical modification and make-up as an art.'
However although Ashton was fascinated by the Barbie look, she was initially too nervous to wear make-up in public and feared that her classmates would mock her appearance.
She explained: 'When I was 14 my experiments with make-up were private. I was terrified that my classmates would poke fun at me and that I would not be taken seriously.
'But each year, I started to care less and less about what people thought.
'And when I was around sixteen, I dyed my hair blonde, bought extensions, began self-tanning, contouring with make-up and overdrawing my lips.
Ashton's make-up and exaggerated pout was more unusual at the time. 'This was before the Kardashians started contouring and Kylie was doing the whole lip liner thing, so I stood out,' she said.
'I like the artificial look because it's a wearable express of myself. Without make-up, my face is just random skin and bone that I didn't choose,' said Ashton. Pictured as a teenager (left) and now (right)
'This was before the Kardashians started contouring and Kylie was doing the whole lip liner thing, so I stood out.'
When Ashton underwent a huge transformation and finally unveiled her Barbie look to her classmates, their response was disapproving.
She said: 'The initial reaction from my schoolmates was pretty negative. I got a lot of people telling me that I looked fake and that I should look more natural.
'They told me that the artificial look wasn't me. But inside I finally felt like my true natural self.
'There are so many reasons why some people prefer a more artificial look.
'It can be as harmless as wanting to look like a doll because it's fun. People should not be judged for it.'
Ashton has a tumblr page where fans regularly praise her make-up skills and the images showing her incredible transformation have gone viral
HOW ASHTON CREATES HER BARBIE DOLL LOOK
Hair colouring (Blonde)
In spite of the backlash and criticism from her peers, Ashton went on to excel in her studies, gaining a place on the psychology course at University of Tennessee.
She was one of only a handful of undergraduate research assistants selected to conduct research in the University's clinical psychology department and is applying for PhD programs.
'Pursuing the Barbie look improved my life massively. With all the criticism, I've developed a thick skin when it comes to my appearance,' said Ashton.
'I also began to feel more confident, as I had hoped, and I felt like I had a great outlet to express myself artistically.
'I like the artificial look because it's a wearable express of myself. Without make-up, my face is just random skin and bone that I didn't choose.
'With make-up, my look is intentional. It's me. Yet most people will look at me and think I'm an airhead or shallow and materialistic. It's quite entertaining to be underestimated though.
'However, when I'm in an academic setting, it's a little more serious.
'I always make sure to demonstrate to my professors early on that I'm capable and my make-up hobby does not hinder my ability to do research or write excellent papers. It's just one of my many interests.
Ashton loves to experiment with her look, but has always emulated the Barbie look because it gives her confidence. 'I feel comfortable in my skin. And I'm not afraid of showing my 'before' photos because I really do take pride in it. Make-up is an art,' she said.
'Although I think it's sad that there's such a stigma in academia against women who appear overly feminine.'
Three years ago, Ashton started a blog about the Barbie look and it gained a large following. Fans of her tumblr page regularly praise Ashton's make-up skills and the images showing her incredible transformation have gone viral.
Ashton - who is single - explains: 'When I started my blog in 2012, it was originally just an archive of photos of girls that I personally found aesthetically inspiring. For instance, I really like the way Kylie Jenner is doing the Barbie look.
'I was surprised when people took interest my blog. That was totally unexpected, but it's given me the opportunity to connect with other people who like experimenting with hair and make-up.
'I feel comfortable in my skin. And I'm not afraid of showing my 'before' photos because I really do take pride in it. Make-up is an art.
'It's liberating to simply look the way you want to look without worrying what people think about it.
'The comments I get on the blog are overwhelmingly positive and I'm so thankful for my followers. They mean a lot to me.
'The positive feedback is well-worth any hate comments. When someone makes a rude comment on my photos, I make sure to let them know that my make-up isn't for them. It's for me.'