The Brazilian ‘Human Ken Doll’, Celso Santebañes has died from bacterial pneumonia after a five-month battle with leukemia.
The 20-year-old, who spent $50,000 on surgery to transform himself into Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer last year. And while undergoing his second chemotherapy session since December, Santebañes died of complications on Thursday at the Federal University of Uberlândia Clinical Hospital in Brazil.
The model’s transformation into a human version of a Ken Doll began after he won a modeling contest at the age of 16. He was reportedly frequently told that he looked like the Mattel doll and so eventually sought to create a closer resemblance.
Santebañes then shot to fame after he was spotted by a talk show in his hometown of Sao Paulo and started charging up to $16,000 for VIP appearances. He also launched his own line of Celso Dolls in Los Angeles shortly before he got sick.
“When he was starting to fulfil his dreams, he discovered his illness and his dreams were interrupted. He had plans but God had others,” his father Celio Borge said.
Santebañes discovered he had cancer after visiting the hospital to treat infections that were caused by hydrogel fillers, which were injected in his legs four years ago.
And before his death, he’d had four operations on his jaw, chin, and nose – in addition to silicone implants in his chest.
Thrilled about his newfound fame, a teenage Santebañes shared his elation with a Brazilian newspaper after his discovery.
“This is so magical. My life has changed,” he said. “I feel like the whole of Brazil is supporting me. People are sometimes frightened by the way I look, and stop me to say how much I look like a doll.”
Adding, “I do suffer a lot of prejudice. But the world is full of judgmental people, I don’t care.”
Still, despite his success, Celso admitted last year that he wasn’t 100 percent happy.
“I think I’m 90% of what I want to be,” he said. “I intend to do more surgeries, but do not know what. For now my investment is being in the gym, for Ken is strong and I am skinny.
“[And] as I work with my aesthetic, I must take care of my body.”
Sadly, Celso’s five months battle with cancer took away what he worked so hard to achieve. He lost his hair as well as a lot of weight, and was later confined to a wheelchair.
“Today I start a new cycle of my life,” he said in an interview in January. “I am starting chemotherapy and I admit I’m a little concerned about some side effects, like hair loss, nausea, my body’s rejection [of chemotherapy], among other things, but I am no longer concerned with the issue of aesthetics. For me that doesn’t matter. What matter is my health now, and I will fight for it.”
In another interview in May, Santebañes, cloaked under heavy makeup and a hat, reflected on his past pursuit of physical perfection.
“Everyone who wants to be pretty, who wants to be perfect, to call attention to themselves, [it’s] to supplant this lack of… of love, perhaps,” he mused.
Celso was buried the day following his death.
[Image via YouTube]