Wearing a vintage-inspired pink and white gingham dress modelling one of the looks from the Barbie movie, June Furlong regularly takes to the stage at The Odyssey cinema in St Albans to introduce the box office hit.
At the same time she tells the waiting audience about her personal collection of 300 Barbie dolls, dating back to 1955.
Ms Furlong has worked at the cinema for four years and when bosses found out about the collection, she was invited to bring them along to add to Barbie experience.
The collection now takes pride of place in the cinema foyer – and it will stay there while the film is out.
Greta Gerwig’s film, which sees the toy, played by Margot Robbie, swap her pink fantasy home for the real world, is this year’s biggest box office hit so far, having made $1.38bn (£1.1bn) globally.
Ms Furlong’s dolls have also been a hit among cinema visitors.
The 59-year-old said that as she was unable to display all the dolls in her Hemel Hempstead home, mainly due to the 1,500 pairs of shoes she also owned, the display was a “great excuse to get them all out”.
“There were about 300 at the last count, but there’s more now because I’ve bought a few more from the movie,” she said.
“They’re just in the loft, they all live happily there, and sometimes I get them out… but I was very keen on letting them all come out to be looked at.
“I do feel a bit sad [they are hidden away] because they are beautiful things and they are made to be admired, so it would be nice to have a big house so that I could have a Barbie room.”
Ms Furlong is also always keen to take her turn to introduce the film at the independent cinema.
“I like to dress up and be my icon even for a few minutes,” she said. “It’s fabulous, I love it, it’s like a dream come true to really be Barbie.”
The US fashion doll was created by Ruth Handler, who named it after her daughter Barbara, and was launched by Mattel in 1959.
Ms Furlong said her obsession with the doll began as a child, but as her mum was a “chucker-outer” she sadly did not have any of those early dolls.
It was when she had her daughter in 1995 that she started to buy them again, and first bought a Barbie depicted as Scarlett O’Hara.
“I named my daughter Scarlett after the character in Gone With The Wind, my favourite film,” she said.
“When I found out there was a Barbie of Scarlett there was no stopping me, and then it opened up this Pandora’s box of beautiful Barbies and limited editions which I just thought I’ve got to have.”
She now has dolls ranging from Lady Liberty, which she just about managed to get through US customs unscathed, to dolls from Versace and Armani.
Even some that were just the usual toy shop dolls have gained value due to the popularity of the film.
“When I was looking through my Barbies to display I found Midge – the discontinued bad pregnant sister of Barbie in the film, which is now quite famous and quite rare,” she said.
“And Alan [the best friend of Barbie’s nominative partner Ken] is also quite rare – I think it’s nice that he’s been put in the spotlight.”
Most of those on display are featured in the film and Ms Furlong said there would be new ones coming out from the movie, which she was “poised to get”.
She said she did not like to think about how much she had spent on them over the years, but knew “it would probably be [the same as] a round-the-world cruise or something”.
“I haven’t got a Ken. I think I would be a tough person to live with, so I’m quite happily living on my own with all my stuff,” she said.
Ms Furlong said that growing up in Britain “it was all about the Sindy doll”, but she “just clapped eyes on Barbie and that was it, the arrows of love [appeared]”.
“I think she was just a very glamorous lady and I just aspired to almost being her,” she said.
“I was an only child so I looked at her as my big sister – somebody that was very beautiful, wore all these lovely clothes and I thought, I’m going to look like that when I’m older, but that didn’t really happen.”
She then grew to see Barbie as a “very strong positive force” and said the current film had “supported everything I’ve ever said” about her.
“When people have said, ‘How can you like Barbie, she’s just so stereotypical?’ I’ve said that Barbie is such a strong woman,” she said.
“She’s not the dental assistant, she’s the dentist. She’s not the nurse, she’s the doctor. And I think young girls can aspire to be anything they want to be like Barbie, and the film reinforces that.”
In fact, when actor America Ferrera makes a speech in the movie about how it is impossible to be a woman, which drums home how it is much more than clothes, heels, hair and make-up, “some of the audiences have actually applauded”, Ms Furlong said.
“They had made cartoons of Barbie on little adventures before,” she said, “but I think the film has almost humanised her.
“I think it’s been really positive and it’s shown that Barbie is a very strong positive force for women and young girls.”
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