Despite being known for her comedic takedowns of celebrity culture, Celeste Barber is dead serious when it comes to fashion – or at least what it represents.
With her social media posts attracting millions, Celeste is using her platform to call out unrealistic expectations put on women by the fashion and wellness industries. She wants you to laugh, sure – but she also wants you to think.
"Social media has a lot to answer for," Celeste, 41, tells TV WEEK. "How we look, especially for women, is one of the most important things in society. And everyone is online so there's a lot of pressure on people now."With decades as a comedian and actress on series such as All Saints, The Letdown and Wellmania, Celeste acknowledges she has a certain influence on people, too. But insists she won't change to fit a certain mould.
"You can't help but be aware [what people may think] if you have nine million followers, but I still have to do what makes me feel good," she says.
"There will always be people who want to say something about what you wear or do, but I can't control it and I don't see it unless someone points it out to me. I often say to my friends, 'Don't show me. If I haven't brought it up, I don't want to see it.' It's self-preservation."
In spite of the hurdles, it's all part of what led her to The Way We Wore, a docuseries about the evolution and significance of Australian fashion.
"It's so interesting, because the fashion industry employs more people than the mining industry, yet it's so undervalued," she says, adding that the project came to her about a year ago and she couldn't pass it up.
Not only does it examine an industry she adores – "I've always loved dressing up," she says – but it highlights the problems she's determined to change.
"My intention is to make people laugh and to cut through the body-shaming industry," she says. "I want people to feel good about what they wear."
Her quest to change a multibillion-dollar industry, which has included campaigns with US designer Tom Ford and Australian brand Bras N Things, won't fix anything overnight, but it's a step in the right direction for body positivity and mental health.
As for her own journey, Celeste says she has found self-acceptance over time. But finding success doesn't always mean happiness, either. The star, who was nominated for Most Popular Actress at the 2023 TV WEEK Logie Awards, recently announced that Netflix had cancelled Wellmania after one season. Celeste took to Instagram to express her disappointment.
"I'm bummed I can no longer explore that excellent character," she said in a post. "A lot of you told me you saw yourself in Liv and wanted more of her, but this industry is kind of bulls*."
The resilient rogue won't be deterred by the setback, simply because there's too much at stake.
Celeste has two sons – Lou, 12, and nine-year-old Buddy – with her husband of 10 years, Api Robin, who she affectionately nicknames "Hot Husband" on Instagram. She's also a stepmother to Api's two daughters from a previous relationship. It's the fight for family that keeps her on course.
"I'm more focused on being the best version of me, not just for myself but for them," she says.
"I'm more comfortable in my skin, partly because it's a bit more stretchy now. [Laughs] But the alternative is hating yourself, which can be horrible. I want to step out as the best version of myself and do what makes me feel good. I'm drinking my own Kool-Aid."