Shane and Sia Barbi, aka The Barbi Twins, first shot to fame
in the mid 90's when they graced the cover of two of
Playboy's top selling issues. They also had a hand
in the multimillion0dollar calendar business with four
worldwide #1 selling calendars, which helped make them
household names. They're blonde and beautiful, so
surely they must be a couple of air-headed bimbos, right?
WRONG! Nothing could be further from the truth.
"Everything about us is a paradox," says Sia.
"We are famous for being agoraphobic. We were tomboys
who hated pictures. We got famous from our sexy
centerfolds yet we have eating disorders and body image
problems, but we still became models. We're actually
just a couple of frauds."
But when it comes to animals, they say
they're the real deal! Something I can attest to from
Shane Barbi first contacted me a couple of
years ago when she was concerned about a local rescue group
with which she was a volunteer. "It really started
with our getting into health.
were bulimic.) And then we got into recovery. And part
of recovery was honesty and charity. So what better
thing can we do than to be honest and sincere about our
passion and to do our charity with animals? We're
trying to make a difference, but you can drive yourself
crazy with animal causes."
years ago Shane started doing hands-on volunteer work with
animals rather than just donate. "I became a little
obsessed and went to a certain rescue, every day, seven days
a week, seven hours a day. Even holidays. I was
glad to get an insight into the rescue world. It was a
rude awakening. I saw for every animal I helped adopt
out and socialize - there was so much to do - three more
animals would come in. It just seemed like an endless
problem. These people had good intentions but they
were unable to step outside to look at the bigger picture."
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"And then when Katrina came I saw it on a bigger scale.
I saw companies profiting off the problems." (And I heard
about it through the many emails Shane sent out during the whole
Katrina animal fiasco.)
"Most of the organizations here are old school," Shane
continues. "What's the definition of insanity? It's
repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different
results. We're not improving, There is one man who I
absolutely love - Nathan Winograd (www.NoKillSolutions.com).
He really took every angle that I dissected myself before I even
discovered him through your article about him. I would
like to see a No Kill nation. I saw that the bigger
organizations that were good at lobbying were not hands on.
I was not too sure if they had the God given right to put an
animal down. I just thought that was very controversial.
But then I saw the other extreme - did an animal really have a
quality of life living in a cage? And what was the
percentage? The percentages I found to be true of
adoptions is less than 1% for a cat to be adopted and less than
10% for a dog. So I thought most of these animals will
either be killed or live a horrible life in a cage, and I saw
them losing hope. Their personalities disappeared. I
liked how Nathan stressed behavior, handling, exercise, getting
creative with foster care, mobile adoptions, getting honest
people that were really into it, not just people good at
business. I just like what he has to say."
While the goal of a No Kill nation still looms in the
distance, the Barbi Twins have been striving towards this
utopian plan for animals all their lives. Their youth was
very much like The Parent Trap because they grew up
separately but spent summers and holidays together in Malibu.
Sia grew up on her father's Malibu ranch while Shane lived with
her mother in Arizona, New Mexico and San Diego, where they were
actually born. But their fondest memories were being
together in Malibu. They were seven years old when they
were separated, because they were so close their parents "wanted
us to have our own healthy identities."
One of those "twin things" was that they both wanted to be
veterinarians and work with animals. And their fondest
memories involving animals when they were growing up were
"bringing little presents and treats on holidays to all the
little animals in shelters," Sia says.
"Yeah, holidays would not be ok with us unless we brought
treats to the animals," Shane chimes in. "We usually did
this separately, but we'd always tell each other."
"We knew our feelings for animals were different from other
people. When I saw The Ten Commandments I watched
the Red Sea come in and I was expecting the horses to come up
and they didn't. I couldn't stop crying," explains Shane.
"I remember writing God a letter asking why are you so mean to
animals? Why do they have such a bad life? I saw
that I had more feelings than other people and they would call
me a fanatic."
"In high school we tried to supress these feelings, but we
surrounded ourselves with animals. I rode horses and would
be in horse shows; I raised Dobermans; I was in 4H. I
loved them being around me," Shane says. "But the extreme
empathy we had for animals was always there. We
would steal animals from schools because we didn't like them in
cages and we would set them free at Will Rogers State Park.
We wanted to see an animal have freedome and felt that in a cage
they were unhappy."
The twins never went to the same school, explains Sia.
"We targeted any place that had an animal because we felt that
animals should not be used by people in classes or for
demonstrations. We just had to liberate them. We
were pretty radical."
At age seven they also began modeling when they posed for a
layout in the Sears mail-order catalog. "Around the horse
world," Sia says, "there are a lot of people who model. So
we thought, instead of just working with the horses, we might as
well do some modeling to make money to help the horses. We
always got the lame horses and never rode them. We figured
why buy the perfect horse when the imperfect one was going to be
dog food pretty soon."
While Shane was raising Dobermans, Sia was into all aspects
regarding horses. "I did dressage, and I was really into
working with thoroughbred horses from the racetracks, making
them into runners and jumpers. We were both really into
horses. But where we separate is that I do believe that we
should somewhat trian horses because I hear nightmare stories
that if they aren't handled they hurt themselves."
"I say leave them free to run in the hills," injects Shane.
"I believe that animals have the right to live in harmony in
their own nature. I'm anti-zoo, always have been.
Anti-circus, Anti-exotic animals as pets."
"I raised and bred Dobermans for shows, which included ear
cropping. I'm not proud of that," continues Shane.
"We did everything bad."
"But it feels like when you get into the purebreds,"
interrupts Sia, "you're saying that the mutts are not good
enough. And that's why we're completely, 100% into the
mutts now. We embrace the imperfections, the older dogs."
"And our favorite dog show these days is
Mutts," Shane says. In fact, Bobby Dorafshar and
New Leash on Life
is one of their favorite organizations.
Growing up they had lots of favorite animals, but it was
always the underdog. "We had a crippled mouse named
George. Whatever animal was the most abused, the most
hated, ...we even had a pet rat that was very smart. We
also had 19 guinea pigs we kept stealing from schools. But
our favorite was a stray cat we brought home named Nat the Cat.
He was this Mancoon who stood up and sat like a dog to beg for
food. And like a dog, he would drop a ball for you to
throw and then go fetch it. He would eat watermelon with
us and loved fruit!! Nat was the love of our life who we had for
12 years. We never cried so hard as when he died of old
age, at 14."
Currently the twins' homes are revolving doors for animals.
Sia, who is single, has three kitties and one dog, all rescues.
"They will always be mine if I can't find a home for them.
I know there is one that is very unadoptable. Her name is
Meanest. And the dog is Dinky (who shares the cover photo
with the twins.) But I'm not sure if he has a permanent
home yet. He was found on the freeway and looked like he
was ten years old, but he's really only about a year old."
Shane, who's married to Ken Wahl from TV's Wiseguy,
fosters lots of kittens, but also has three of her own -
Thumper, Nelly and Cutest.
Despite their agoraphobia, The Barbi Twins are getting gout
more to attend animal events in support of their favorite
organizations. They are big fans of Much Love whose
fundraiser they recently attended in Malibu. "They help us
with our foster animals", says Shane.
They "absolutely love the Feral Cat Alliance and Christi
Metropole. She's fantastic. We do cat Trap - Neuter
- RElease with her and we have feral cat colonies with her."
"We also love The Paw Project and Dr. Jenny Conrad.
We're doing a documentary called Cat Fight on the cruel
amputation of declawing. One of my cats, Nelly, is
declawed and crippled, and a lot of these animals end up back at
the shelter or just loose, which is worse."
"And our favorite group, and the one that offers a standard
of living that all animals deserve is
Friends. They took a lot of our Katrina animals that
we rescued. We took many trips to the gulf Coast because
our mother was in Mississippi. We were helping her....but
mostly the animals."
The Barbi Twins have written books and articles, including a
few that have appeared in The Pet Press. And they
have a number of projects in the works, including a documentary
feature film they are associate producing that explores the
differences between animal welfare and animal rights, due out in
They are also finishing production on a one-hour Rescue
Reality show for VHI that is non-political. It's a day in
the life of rescue with The Barbi Twins, and includes people
like Kim Bassinger, Joss Stone, and Gloria Estevan.
And then there is their book, Rescuism vs. Rescue,
showing how "Rescuism" (a word they have coined) is a disease,
"and how people get obsessed in the movement and lose focus from
the animals. The main theme is to stop this cult-like
environment that we're seeing everywhere."
The largest project they are working on is a live concert
called Animal Aid, to bring global awareness to the
plight of animals and the environment. Modeled after
Live Aid, they are working with Willie Nelson and his
daughter Amy who bring their expertise from the many Farm Aid
concerts they've produced.
Because they ARE The Barbi Twins, they are able to get
publicity in various mainstream media, from appearances on
Howard Stern's radio show to their most recent stint with Bill
O'Reilly, trying to explain the ridiculous controversy over the
Hooters Bikini Contest. But they don't do these things to
promote themselves, (it's the last thing they'd do.)
Instead it's to talk about various animal issues.
The Barbi Twins, actually Shane, thinks nothing of picking up
the phone and calling someone when she sees an injustice going
on. "not only does she speak her mind," Sia says, "but she
doesn't have an agenda. If someone says that we do these
thins for press, then they just don't know us."
They also send emails and letters to alert people to
injustices going on. "My sister also gives me phon numbers
every day to call about various issues. Every day we try
to make a difference. Whenever people say 'oh, you'll
never change the way things are being done,' I'm so driven with
what I do that day I'm just deaf to what they say. It IS
making a difference. I can only do what I can do today,
and that's all that matters."
Sia makes the calls and Shane sends out the emails. "We
make a pretty good team. It's non-stop all day long."
They've called the White House so many times "they probably
blocked our phone numbers."
"There's always a way of doing something to contribute to
animals, no matter how small it is," says Sia. "Whether
you want to protest or boycott something...even if you want to
be a vegan or if you want to volunteer for some charity, there's
always somethig we can do."
"Everyone should, somehow, participate in their local
shelter, because you can save a life," adds Shane. "I
can't stres that enough. I'm glad we're heading towards No
Kill Shelters and I see some progress towards that direction.
But I still think that people should be a part of their
community. Get hands on. It's not good enough to
just send a donation. Get involved."
The Barbi Twins plan to atend the
Friends Lint Roller Party at Smashbox
Studios on September 14th, where they will be promoting their
latest campaign. Bunnies Rescuing Bunnies. Called
the Great Bunny Rescue of 2006, they are working with Playboy
Bunnies and Best Friends, which has a place in REno where 1,000
rabbits are in need of homes.