The much-anticipated Barbie (2023) movie releases in U.S. movie theaters today, and for some viewers, there’s more to celebrate than pink outfits, pink set design and pink childhood nostalgia. Filipino Americans across the Internet rejoiced when they found out that one of the Barbies in the movie is Pinay.
Ana Cruz Kayne, who is half-Filipina on her mother’s side and half-Jewish on her father’s, is proudly representing her Filipina heritage both inside and outside the movie. For Kayne, representation is important—especially representation of the mixed Asian experience.
“Hollywood is a tough industry because while they’re open to diversity, it’s diversity that is presenting monoracial,” she told Joy Sauce.
Barbie dolls were never a source of that sort of representation in Kayne’s childhood. There were no Filipina dolls—much less Filipina-Jewish dolls. “When they asked us [if we felt represented by Barbie] on set, I was like, ‘Are we allowed to say the truth?’” she said to Joy Sauce. “And I’m just gonna say it: No! Barbie had nothing to do with me. She was leggy and blonde and had big boobs and all the women in my life were tiny brown women. So, no.”
But now, Kayne, who plays Supreme Court Justice Barbie, has the opportunity to be for other little girls what she wished she could’ve seen on screen as a child, and she’s not afraid to take advantage of it. In one promotional picture of a scene from the film, Cruz (second from the right) is shown wearing a traditional Filipino dress called Filipiniana, also known as the terno dress.
According to In the Know, Filipiniana is a traditional outfit worn in the Philippines consisting of a camisa, a blouse with oversized butterfly sleeves; a saya, a long skirt; and a pañuelo, an embroidered shawl covering the neck. It turns out that Kayne intentionally chose to reference her Filipina heritage with this design.
“There’s a scene where the costume director was like, is there anything special you wanna wear? And at first, I was like, ‘I don’t know, tracksuit, jumpsuit,’” she told Joy Sauce. “And then I was like, ‘You know what? I wanna wear these butterfly sleeves that are traditional in the Philippines and kind of represent my mom.’”
“And I just remember crying when I tried it on because, if you want to be seen, you kind of have to speak up and tell them what that looks like because people don’t know, necessarily,” she added. “I don’t feel like the Philippines in general is very well represented.”
The Filipina pride doesn’t end when the movie ends, however. Kayne was spotted wearing Filipino fashion designer Dennis Lustico’s pink coconut terno top at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie on July 10.
According to Lustico, she “specifically requested to wear something Filipino for the big day.”
She also sported another Filipina-inspired outfit during the London premiere two days later, this time Lustico’s nude terno top with leaf appliqué.
Kayne said that she’s grateful for all the opportunities that the Barbie movie has given Kayne to share her experience as a half-Filipina, half-Jewish woman. “Getting to be a Barbie who’s just mixed Asian—she’s not pretending to be a completely different race—was just the most empowering thing that I’ve ever gotten to do in my life,” she told Joy Sauce.
“And as I was saying before, it’s on us,” she continued. “And it’s a big responsibility… Getting to step into that unapologetically is still the thing that when I think about it, I get chills. It means everything. That’s the whole point.”