Meet Venus, a living, breathing teenage doll

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Venus Palermo, 15, in one of her many 'doll' photos (Photo courtesy of Venus Palermo)

Just like most other 15-year-old girls, Venus Palermo loves to eat sweet and sticky food, spends most of her time on the Internet, and worries about getting too many pimples.

But that's where the similarities end -- Venus looks nothing like a regular girl her age.

The London teen' daily routine is transforming herself from petite, fresh faced girl to a porcelain-skinned blonde doll with huge vacant blue eyes and rosebud lips.

To complete the picture, she wears frilly, ribboned bib dresses in pastel colours more commonly seen on little toddlers.

Forty minutes is all she takes each morning to make herself ready to face the world as a marionette version of herself.

In person, Venus is a walking, living, and breathing doll. She looks like one, talks like one, and moves like one, much to the delight of her thousands of fans on You Tube.

Her freakishly artificial appearance has prompted a huge wave of attention online and millions of views on her You Tube channel, where she uploads videos on "How to look like a Puppy/Unicorn" or films herself sitting on her frilly bed completely still and eerily inanimate to jangling Japanese music.

The home-schooled only child of a single mother has also become the target of much criticism, with talk-show hosts and child psychologists accusing her of "sexualizing" the image of youth and promoting an unhealthy obsession with perfection.

Venus, who has been dressing this way since she was 11, shares more about the girl underneath the doll with Yahoo! Singapore.

The Manga (Japanese comics) fan says she decided to become a living doll after viewers on a Japanese video site she posts regularly at said she didn't look human.

"My viewers told me .. that I look like a doll, android or robot. I started to behave like something artificial, like a doll," she said in an e-mail interview. "So the roots of my transformation, my self-realisation are in Japan.

This "behaviour" included pretending to be an android which runs on batteries, filming videos where she would hold an unplugged cable and pretend to "charge" herself.

Venus Palermo in one of her "manga" get ups (Photos courtesy of Venus Palermo)

Venus then experimented with makeup to make her already doll-like features even more artificial and copied styles from the Japanese Lolita fashion sub-culture, which focuses on Victorian era frilly dresses, parasols, and elaborate hairstyles.

She also adopted a childish, high-pitched voice and speaks in broken baby-talk, referring to her viewers as "my crying little baby bunnies" and her "fizzy, fuzzy sugarised coconuts".

"My facial features, hair structure and body shape are doll-alike, and my clothing style was always a little bit different, more playful and girlie than the average," said Venus, saying that it was a natural progression for her.

She spends about S$240 on makeup and skincare a month, all paid for by her mother, Margaret, who said she is fully behind her daughters' living doll ambitions.

Venus says her mother is her biggest inspiration in life, and that although she has struggled as a single mother, she is "still able to laugh, and always supported me."

Sales representative Margaret, 37, has told English media that Venus is still "young and innocent" and that her hobby was much more healthy than other teenagers who "are sexual and out drinking".

Venus and her mother dyeing her hair blonde. (Photos courtesy of Venus Palermo)

She has been teaching Venus to apply make-up since she was just six years old, and also dyes her brunette daughter's hair blond with bleach every month.

However bizarre her behaviour, Venus has been catapulted to bona-fide celebrity status, appearing in television shows and newspapers all over the United Kingdom.

Her 85 videos have received over 16 million hits and she has almost 50,000 subscribers. Her mother has hired a publicist to represent her daughter, who receives interview requests from as far as Japan.

But with the fame has come criticism and harassment.

According to Venus, boys post messages on her Facebook wall asking to see her underwear and men honk at her on the street when she passes.

Several online bloggers have also slammed her as a freak and labelled her mother as controlling and stunting her daughters' social development by keeping her at home and restricting her interaction with the real world.

Venus says that the admiration "can be as dangerous as the criticism."

"Some of the admirers are disappointed if I cannot answer every mail -- but they write you everyday!" she lamented, "Some of them defend you against your haters, which can cause storms."

Venus Palermo with her mother Margaret and a Japanese host (Photos courtesy of Venus Palermo)

Venus, who speaks German, English, Japanese, Spanish and Swiss French, says that her passion for being a living doll will still take second place behind her studies.

"I will definitely do my school exams and I always wanted to go to university," said Venus. "With diligence and the help of my management I might be able to be a celebrity and be good at school!

She also has no intention to stop dressing and behaving like a doll anytime soon.

"I've been happy with my doll look. But I'm just a teenager, so let's see how I change or don't change," she said.