When Shannon Purser left her character, Barb behind on the Netflix megahit, Stranger Things she would be forgiven for not giving Barb a second thought. Barb largely operated on the outskirts of the main story line and seemed to be another TV character that would be long forgotten.
But in the age of social media anything can happen. As the Netflix show transitioned into cult status #JusticeForBarb not only started trending, it went viral, propelling Barb to another level and changing Shannon’s life overnight. Crazy to think this was her first acting role... EVER!
Fast-forward to the airing of the second season of Stranger Things where justice is finally served for Barbs and Shannon and I find ourselves tucked away in the depths of Topshop, in her home away from home, a replica of Joyce's living room. But as we settle down into the sofa, I realise this twenty year old isn’t your regular early twenties actress. She is fierce beyond belief and isn’t going to shy away from being a role model for girls just like her…
“I was getting messages saying, ‘this is the first time I have ever seen anyone like me on TV.’ I take a lot of pride that there isn’t a lot of plus sized girls on TV and the outpouring of love and comments I have received has been insane. There’s something every beautiful and profound about that, to me.”
“You are trained growing up that it’s negative to be plus sized and that being fat is negative. I have really had to reevaluate what I thought about myself and retrain my brain. Some labels hurt more than others but I also know a lot of women who claim ‘fat’ as their own. At the end of the day I know who I am, I know my body and I know what to do to keep myself healthy so I really don’t care what anyone calls me.”
“If I looked back at my life on my death bed and I thought, ‘I acted and did nothing for anyone else,’ I would be so disappointed! Being a ‘role model’ is instinctive to me. I have always been a really motherly person and I have always liked taking care of people. My friends come to me a lot for advice and I want to help. I am not a savior, I can’t save the world but most of the time people just need someone to say, ‘I hear you, I have been there too and you are alone.’ If I can be that person then that’s amazing! Everyone has the right to do what they want with their time but I personally feel a responsibility to use my platform to help.”
“Justice for Barb would be her having a funeral. I feel that it would be good for her parents, for them to know she is dead and gone.”
“If Barb was alive now she would be in New York owning an artisanal cheese stop. Someone tweeted me that and it made a lot of sense to me - I feel that she would take great pride in making fancy cheeses. Or as a lawyer concerned with social justice or environment issues – I think she would be a very progressive, forward thinking lady.”
“My life has completely blown up but I keep grounded with meditation which I am really into. I am a really introverted person by nature so I spend a lot of time on my own. I am an artist, so I like to draw and of course I watch Netflix constantly as an escape.”
“It was sad to leave Barb behind without knowing if anyone was even going to care about the character. There was something special about her that meant a lot to me but I wasn’t sure if people would even notice or acknowledge that. The everyone freaked out which was mind blowing.”
“The Stranger Things wrap party was really fun! We had kids so we went to a place with go-karts and a bowling alley – there was no pressure to walk around and be ‘cool’ and party – we just had a lot of fun!”
“What makes Barb special is that she is so unique in so many ways. She is an outcast, she’s kinda awkward but at the same time she isn’t self-pitying and she’s unapologetic about who she is. Barb isn’t intimated by anyone, not even the popular kids – I loved that she was honest and wasn’t afraid to be herself.”
“I don’t look at KJ Apa’s abs often, but I know that they are there! I am proud of him, as I know he works his butt off to keep them going. Every time I see him he’s talking about how much he’s working out in a very honest way. He’s a very kind and compassionate human being. It’s great he’s like that and super good looking!”
Stranger Things and Riverdale is streaming on Netflix now