“There’s a lot of bullshit online being sold to us as something that’s real, when it’s not real,” says Australian comedian Celeste Barber, who has built a massive social media presence—she has 7.1 million followers on Instagram—skewering celebrities’ least realistic (and often thirstiest) posts by re-creating them in hilariously unvarnished ways. Barber gamely attempts yoga poses in her underwear, dances awkwardly in a swimsuit and heels, and evokes crystalline beach backdrops with kiddie pools and concrete balconies.
She provides similar cathartic energy on her year-old podcast, Celeste & Her Best, which has her and cohost Thomas Campbell interview such stars as Jameela Jamil and Jonathan Van Ness about their lives and careers, as well as the vicissitudes of fame. By bringing celebrity culture down a notch, she’s been able to harness it to new effect. When Australia was ravaged by bushfires last December and January, Barber took to Facebook with an emotional appeal for funds for the overwhelmed New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Within two weeks of her January post, she had raised more than $35 million, thanks in part to the amplification efforts of many of her parody subjects. “Because I do it in a good-natured way,” she says, “I’ve become friends with a lot of people I’ve made fun of, and they asked me how they could help.”