Brazilian model Celso Santebañes, who was nicknamed “The Human Ken Doll,” has died after a five-month struggle with leukemia.
Celso Santebañes, 20, died on Thursday, June 4, from bacterial pneumonia following a bout with leukemia.
Diagnosed with the rare form of blood cancer last year, Celso Santebañes underwent a battery of chemotherapy treatments starting in December of 2014. He died at the Federal University of Uberlândia Clinical Hospital, where he was undergoing his latest round of chemotherapy.
Starting at the age of 15, Celso Santebañes entered beauty contests. As a teenager, people kept telling him that he looked like a Ken Doll. Obsessed with the perfection of physical beauty, the Brazilian model started to identify features of his face that didn’t look like Ken Doll.
His nose was too wide, his lip too natural and his philtrum – the crease of the upper lip – simply too natural.
By his late teens, Celso Santebañes had fixed his “imperfections” and joined a growing number of adult men aspiring to look like a Ken Doll. Not to be outdone by the original Mattel doll, Celso Santebañes released a line of “Celso” dolls modeled after himself. He daydreamed about making a film with Valeria Lukyanova, the Ukrainian “Human Barbie”.
In his five month battle with cancer, Celso Santebañes immediately had to confront his own physical deterioration, the undoing of what had become his personal identity and national image. It started with dark spots on his skin and bleeding gums, side effects of the blood cancer. Once in treatment his hair fell out. He’d later be confined to a wheelchair, a scrawny pale shadow.