Welcome to the Dollhouse: A Conversation with Human Ken Rodrigo Alves
Confession time: I have an ever-growing fascination with the elite group of people who refer to themselves as "Living Dolls." Combine the extensive Barbie collection I had growing up with how intriguing I find before and after photos of plastic surgery, and you'll find me at my computer around midnight, stalking each Human Barbie or Ken's Instagram (there are quite a few, by the way, and for some reason a ton of them were in Russia) until I reach the 136 week-mark.
Speaking on a personal level, I've always been one of those people who was never quite satisfied with the way that I looked—my nose is massive, I have an even more massive forehead, and of course there were times I felt confident, but for the most part I walked the line between being all "whatever, I'm a bad bitch" and hating myself. There is no in-between. That being said, plastic surgery was a very curious realm to me. I haven't had anything done due to finances and fear that I'd like my old nose better (honestly, is anyone really satisfied with the way their nose looks?), but I was obsessed with the topic and the many sessions I'd spend watching Botched only drove the point home. The living doll clique piqued my interest as they were all so willing to alter their appearances in the most dramatic ways possible, and if there were a Daily Mail article profiling one, you best believe it was already added to my lunchtime reading queue. Like, one Human Ken broke up with his Barbie girlfriend because she dyed her hair brown. Can you imagine?! I started talking about this drama in a recent pitch meeting, as you do, and it turned out that I wasn't the only one obsessed with these stories.
Rodrigo Alves, who can be credited as a Human Ken, had been in the news recently as he applied to the Guinness Book of World Records in hopes of receiving honors for the most cosmetic procedures in the world. I reached out to him, and he responded pretty quickly, and was super-friendly at that, addressing me as "Lovely" in one email and signing off each correspondence as "Roddy." I was kind of into the fact that we were on a nickname basis before our first conversation, and we worked out a time to chat over the phone. "Hello darling," he purred into the reciever, with a cadence so regal it challenged that of the Queen herself. He was as pleasant as I expected him to be, holding no reservations as we dove into every topic from complications after a procedure, to lash-enhancing serums, the latter of which I told him I was a big fan of using—as long as you remembered to apply the serum every night, your lashes would show the payoff. "You must be so pretty," he responded in the most genuine tone, which, honestly I'm not and it depends on the day/my mood, but I was very happy to accept the compliment. I appreciated how candid he was when going into detail of each of his 51 procedures, and although the point of this piece isn't to glorify plastic surgery in the slightest, I certainly agreed with one thing—if people just talked openly about the things seemingly categorized as taboo, and this goes for topics outside of the aesthetic world, maybe some of the stigma would be lost in the process.
Our Q&A in full is below. Read on to get the details on how his Human Ken persona came to be, how Alves grew up, and the procedure he'll be getting next, revealed exclusively to InStyle.
MM: I’m interested in your story. How did the nickname Human Ken come about?
RA: My story is quite powerful, really, because there’s a lot to it. If you compare those people who want to look like dolls and live in that reality, they actually want to look like dolls, and they dress in a certain way, do their makeup in a certain way, and they act like a doll. It’s not my taste. I just want to look beautiful and to be the best I can possibly be—mentally, spiritually, and intellectually—I just want to look like this way, and as a result, I’ve been nicknamed the Human Ken doll. I’ve had this nickname now for four years, and once I gained fame for it, a few other people came after me, claiming to be a Ken doll as well. It was never my intention to set this example, the example that I always wanted was that plastic surgery can change your life like it changed my life, but for entertainment’s sake, I’ll go along with the Human Ken idea—I have fun with it.
Can you tell me about your childhood? What was it like growing up?
I was born in Brazil and my father is British, and I was fat, ugly, misshapen, and I didn’t fit into the Brazilian standard of beauty. I was very much bullied for it, and no one did anything to help or support me then. A lot other kids suffer bullying at school, and my parents weren’t very vigilant to stop it. I just prayed, really. I just prayed for a better day to come, and it was very bad, but all my wishes ended up coming true. I knew then that plastic surgery was available, but I was too young to put myself through it. Having said that, at the age of 17, I had my first surgery to remove my "man boobs"—I had something called gynecomastia, which is a hormone dysfunction that causes male breast tissue to develop. I then moved to London at the age of 19 to go to university and get a degree in public relations and communication, and I went to a very trendy university. Everyone was cool and trendy, and were very switched-on. I wasn’t like that, I was still that fat boy with the wide nose. Very luckily, I had an inheritance, a lot of money from my grandparents, and my main income comes from real estate. At the age of 19, I started to reinvent myself.
I’ve had 51 surgeries so far—I had to count myself at the end of the day, because the Guinness Book needs an investigation on everything. According to all my doctors, I know I have had 51 surgeries, but with aesthetic procedures, it would be 103. I would say that it just became constant maintenance. It’s like a car that has to go through a few repairs. I don’t accept the natural aging process. I’m 33—going to be 34 in July—and if you ask me why, I say my life started too late. I didn’t have a childhood, so I started having fun once I started to look better and be welcomed by my colleagues at university. I was the cool, popular guy I wanted to be, and I was able to express myself through fashion. Thanks to plastic surgery, I became the man that I am today. I have to tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m so happy. Really, I am. I’m popular, I’m the guy I always wanted to be.
I never looked up to any celebrity for my inspiration. I don’t really look like the Ken doll. I do look like a doll, but my own version of a doll because I have very artificial features. People look at me and stare and they get mesmerized, either in a good or bad way, but they do. I like that. I like to stand out, be unique, and be an individual. I always believe my soul never matched my body. I was pretty much born in the wrong body. We all watched Disney movies growing up and felt very inspired by the fantasy and the beauty portrayed. I still love going to Disneyland and I feel like it’s my territory whenever I go. I want to look like a Disney prince. I wanted to look like a prince with blue eyes, big smile, and full head of hair.
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Do you still have any of the features you had before?
I don’t think so, no. Even my photos on my IDs, I have to change them because I don’t look like that anymore. Sometimes I have problems at the airport, especially when I come to America because the photo on my U.S. visa doesn’t match my passport. But my entire face has been changed. I have changed every single inch of my body, and it took me a lot of courage and bravery. That is what I want to be recognized for—for my strength, willpower, and courage. I express myself through fashion. I wear beautiful outfits, and seldom repeat the same one. I have a vast walk-in closet, and when I look at my clothes, I think wow, I look so cool. Thanks to lipo, I can wear all of this and be confident, love myself, and be able to love others as well. Because if I don’t love myself, how can I love others as well? I do like to look different, it makes me feel like an individual, and I like the statement and impact my image has on people as well. In person, it’s very positive. I’m here in L.A. and there’s paparazzi all around. All the pictures are being published, then the comments on the articles are very negative, but in person and face-to-face, everyone is very welcoming. They want to take selfies, want a hug, they ask my advice about plastic surgery, hair implants, and stem cells. Guys and girls, and I like talking about it. I like to provide information and help others too.
I think that’s one thing I thought was interesting—you’re very open about treatments you’ve done, and nothing is really off limits for you, while a lot of people try to deny they’ve had anything done.
Absolutely. If you ask what my aim is, it’s to educate people about my experiences with plastic surgery. I’d like to break the taboo of what plastic surgery is. Here on the West Coast and Miami, people celebrate plastic surgery and talk freely about it, but in England where I live, it is frowned upon and people are still sort of old-fashioned. If people talked more freely, there wouldn’t be so much stigma surrounding it. You should do what makes you happy, whatever that may mean to you.
We live in a society where beauty is a price. Social networks, especially Instagram and image-sharing, it grows on the society and there can be a pressure to look a certain way. I don’t have the pressure to look a certain way, but that’s why I want to look different. Even gyms are increasing in membership because people are becoming more body-conscious.
Do you work out?
No I don’t. I don’t have the time and I don’t like it. Yesterday, I was out at Rodeo Drive, and there was an article where the paparazzi took photos of me. I didn’t see them because I didn’t see the flash. The photos are quite alright but I looked kind of fat, and the journalist called me to ask if I would kindly give her a few words on it.
I’m actually overweight now and have gained quite a few pounds because I fight against my genes. My natural genes are to be fat with much less hair than what I have, so if I didn’t have hair implants, I’d be bald by now. If I didn’t have the amount of lipo I’ve had, I’d be the size of a house. My body still has the fat cells, naturally. Lately, I’m due to join a very big show in England, so I want to be good for it, I want to look my best. I’ve been gaining weight because I had a facelift a month ago, and it took two weeks to recover. I had my CO2 laser, and it took time to recover, and what do you do? You sit in a hotel room and have comfort food. It’s bad enough being in pain and healing, but now I’m on a very strict diet, and I hope to get it right soon.
Basically, I fight against my natural genes, and being at the age of 33 or 34, I don’t look it. I look ageless, I think. You can’t really tell how old I am.
Can you take me through your daily beauty routine? How long does it take you to get ready if you’re going out?
It depends. If I’m going to an event, it would take about two hours. I do my hair very nicely, I apply a toner to my hair since I just got highlights, I’d scrub my entire body, apply a bit of self-tanner, then obviously makeup takes a while. I like it, though. My room is very bright and lit up with mirrors, and I like looking after myself and treating myself. Tonight for example, I have a dinner. It’s my last night here and I go to London in the morning, and it usually takes me an hour. I have a routine. When I’ve just woken up, I take 3 collagen pills per day, biotin for my hair, and I also take Propecia to help the hair grow. It has a little bit of a side effect, I won’t tell you but you can look it up! I take a diuretic for water retention because I bloat quite easily, and that’s about it aside from vitamins. Before going to bed, I apply eye cream, facial cream, and Minoxide to my hair to help it grow. Then when I wake up in the morning, I apply more Minoxide to my hair, scrub my face, and apply a day cream with a bit a makeup. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little bit. I have fun, though. I like doing it. I play my music, and I love singing along and getting ready.
Do you have any favorite products?
I love foundation—I like Marc Jacobs and Armani. Most of my makeup is Armani, it’s great for male skin, and the Luminous Silk Foundation is my favorite. I like Obagi moisturizers because they’re more medical, and I actually went into Dr. Obagi’s office this week here in L.A. to stock up on tons of product.
Have you ever had any complications from your procedures?
I have, actually. Mind you, with the amount I’ve had, I’ve only had two complications. Three or four years ago, I went to Brazil and by recommendation of a friend just on a whim, I had a gel filler like silicone injected into my shoulders, biceps, and triceps. I caught a bacterial infection and was in the hospital for a month. People say just go to the gym and lift weights, but that doesn’t work for me. In February of last year, I had my 7th nose job, and I caught a bacterial infection. My nose was perfect, but I needed to get it reconstructed again, so I went to Berlin for it. My nose looks okay now, but I can’t breathe very well. In May, I’m going to have my 9th rhinoplasty, and hopefully that will be the last.
That must have been really scary.
It was. I’m scared of having my nose done again for the very first time, but I need to because I do television pretty much full-time these days, it’s a job. I can’t be nasally like this, so I struggle with that a bit with my nose so blocked, it sounds like I have a cold.
Are there any other procedures you wanted to get done?
Yes—I haven’t told anyone about this, but I’m happy to tell you. I wear hand-painted contact lenses, and I have 40 pairs of them. The guy who paints my contact lenses lives here in America, and did Angelina Jolie’s contacts in Maleficent. They’re very expensive, probably $500 for a pair, and they’re very high-maintenance because they fade and I have to send them back to be repainted, but I think they look quite realistic. I am going to have an eye color change. There is a company called BrightOcular, and they are designing a special implant that will be implanted in front of my natural brown iris, and I won’t have to wear color contact lenses ever again. I’ve designed them myself—they’re ice grey with a hint of blue, and a honey starburst around the pupil. I’m really looking forward to this. Two of my friends have done it, it looks very good and natural, and their vision is perfect.
What do you have to say to people who might think all of this is weird?
First of all, we’re all individuals and we’re all free to live our lives in the way that we want. Why is it acceptable for some people to do it, but it isn’t acceptable for me to reinvent myself through plastic surgery and be what I want to be, which is an ageless, different man? When I look at myself in the mirror, I think I have a different type of beauty. I’m not ugly because all my proportions are even, but to some people, it’s far too perfect. But you know what? I own it and have fun with it. My doctors are all very good doctors, most of them are here in L.A., and they’re performed in a very controlled environment, so I feel safe.
What’s next for you?
Well to be honest, I’m going back and forth with the Guinness team because they want to give me an award for most cosmetic procedures, but I would like them to change the title. I want a more unique title—like for extreme makeover, the man that used to look one way, but now looks another way from the amount of plastic surgery. If they give me an award for the most plastic surgery, then it will become a competition and it could encourage people to do it as well and possibly put themselves in danger to get in the Guinness Book. Plus, there’s more that I want to do, are they going to keep updating it?
I am designing my own fashion line. I’m working with a designer friend of mine, but it’s all my inspiration. It will be evening wear for men, but glamorous tuxedos and blazers for men with big lapels and gold details. I have also been working on my autobiography, which will hopefully be out by the end of the year. I have commissioned two TV shows, but I can’t say much about them yet! I’m exploring the pop culture of plastic surgery for the one in the United States, as well as a documentary in England about my life.