The Australian actor/writer/comedian has earned more than 3.3 million followers on Instagram for parodying absurd celebrity photographs. With people like Kim (or any of the Kardashian/Jenners, for that matter) clambering for cut-through, there there’s no shortage of fodder for the 35-year-old; Gwyneth Paltrow slathered in mud, a veiled Beyonce cradling her newborn twins. Hundreds of A-listers have had the Celeste Barber treatment.
But as she explained to Mia Freedman on Mamamia‘s No Filter podcast, the success of her photos isn’t in simply copying poses or outfits.
“I’ve got to add something to it,” she said. “I’m not mimicking or mocking, I’m parodying; I’m adding some humour to it.”
Sometimes that means thinking about subtext – taking aim at what the celebrity must have been thinking when they posted it. Other times it might mean replacing Miley Cyrus’ wind machine with a leaf-blower. For this rest, it’s down to the caption or just a good ol’ visual gag.
“When I saw that Beyonce one, for example, I thought, ‘Hold close what’s important… Bread and wine.'”
The whole thing started in 2015 as a way to make her “very, very funny” sister laugh.
“She would just send something to me, seeing someone do a crazy yoga pose and be like, ‘Off you go’. Challenge accepted,” Barber said.
“I knew my mates would find it quite funny as well, and it just kind of went from there.”
These days, a parody post on her Instagram page will typically attract around 250,000 likes, and her videos around 2 million views. So how does she make them happen?
The material. How does she decide what’s worthy?
“I have in my phone a folder of photos I want to do. But that folder just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. So I don’t do most of them. If something comes up that’s very ‘of the now’, I have to try jump on it. So like, Beyonce holding her babies, or the pregnancy announcement.
“I’ve noticed that if I’m not keen to post it [straight away] it’s not worth posting. I have to really trust it… I have to be like, I get this, I know what I’m doing; send now or don’t.”
Celeste Barber tells Mia Freedman how she chooses which photos challenges to take on. (Post continues below.)
Who takes the photos?
Fans will likely know him as #hothusband, but he also goes by “Api. That’s his name, everyone. [He takes] most of them. Sometimes I have a friend that does it – Chloe – if he’s not around.”
Does she scout locations for each photo?
In short, sometimes. But… “If we’re at the beach, for example, I’ll say to Api, ‘While we’re here let’s get some shots done.’ And we’ll do that sort of stuff. And little things, like if I’m wearing a one-piece I’ll pack a bikini, so I can take some [more].”
The homes of friends and family prove useful, too. eg. her mother-in-law’s swimming pool.
Does she spend a fortune on costumes and props?
“It started out with the idea of a normal person doing weird celebrity-type things. So I really try to stay within that when it comes to props and stuff. I really try to go, ‘What would that look like if I put my flesh-coloured underwear on and did it?’ So I’ll go and get what[ever] I’ve got.
“I mean, that’s not to say that I haven’t gone out and bought pink fairy wings and a few tiaras and that silver suit that everyone loves. But I try to stick with what I’ve got.”
How does she cut through on Instagram?
“I’ve been told I need to post three times a week. But do you know what, Instagram Stories help me out with that. I’m so exhausted, there is so much shit to do.
“And I’m scared, too. This is another thing. I’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot because in two years time people are going to go, ‘Insta who?’ And there’ll be a new thing that everyone’s on to.”
For more, catch Mia’s full chat with Celeste Barber on the latest episode of No Filter.