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Barbi Twins' Activism

Shane and Sia Barbi are now militant animal rights activists. Source: Getty Images

THE Barbi twins were the ultimate Playboy icons of the 1990s, pneumatic blonde pin-ups who appeared on the magazine's best-selling covers, created a world-famous brand and became 13-year-old Prince William's first crush.

But Shane and Sia's story is far more interesting than that of the average bunny. The glamorous, doll-like sisters are militant vegan animal rights activists, who have campaigned for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and started their own political party.

The identical sex-symbols were even at the centre of an international manhunt when they recruited porn star Ron Jeremy to help them trace murderer Luka Magnotta, notifying police of the kitten-killing videos he had posted online. Magnotta was later convicted of dismembering a Chinese student in Montreal and mailing his limbs to schools and political party offices.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about the provocative double-act -- with their plumped-up pouts and curvaceous figures -- is their self-deprecating, wacky sense of humour.

Their Green Teabagger Politiclone blog (tagline "Giving bimbos a bad name") accuses the government of "making us look fat", and they have protested against animal testing with placards that read: "Experiment on blondes, NOT monkeys ... They'll never know the difference!"

The former Playboy bunnies, 52, now make different kids of calendars to the ones they did in their younger days. Source: Getty Images

The sisters are vociferous campaigners.

The sisters are vociferous campaigners. Source: Getty Images

They were instrumental in tracking down infamous killer Luka Magnotta.

They were instrumental in tracking down infamous killer Luka Magnotta. Source: AFP

The twins beat bulimia and wrote books about their new healthy vegan lifestyle. Source: Supplied

The twins, goddaughters of Dusty Springfield, came from a strict religious family. Their mother, a former Miss Ohio, was a progressive who supported charities, while their father was a strict Republican who taught them to shoot and ride tractors on his ranch.

Their politics are unsurprisingly mixed: they are pro-gun and pro-life, but see climate change, veganism and gay rights as top priorities. They told it had been "difficult to tell other countries to surrender their animal abusing 'cultures' and 'traditions' without being labelled a racist."

Growing up, the girls wanted to be nuns or veterinarians, but a modelling job for Sears catalogue at the age of seven propelled them into a career in fashion magazines including Seventeen.

When Hugh Hefner spotted them on a traffic-stopping Sunset Boulevard billboard, the Barbi twins went stratospheric. Their pictures appeared on all kinds of merchandise, they modelled for Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel and their Playboy covers sold out in less than two weeks. One of their calendars was even reportedly found in a palace belonging to Saddam Hussein, much to their disgust.

But the most famous glamour models in the world were already struggling with body image and bulimia, and their life became a relentless cycle of crash-dieting, bingeing and purging, downing laxatives and working out for up to 10 hours a day.

"There is a fine line between encouraging and enabling," they told "If someone is not taking care of themselves, that may be good that she isn't into peer pressure, however, she won't feel good about herself.

The girls say they knew they were seen as "a train wreck". Source: Getty Images

They have a gleefully silly sense of humour. Source: Supplied

After a strict Christian upbringing, they wanted to be nuns or vets. Source: Supplied

"Forget the looks, that superficial 'goal' is unending thirst that spirals downward into a disease or addictions ... Your appearance should be the byproduct of your hard work ... not your goal."

The girls don't blame glamour modelling for their health issues, however. "When I see a woman who wants to celebrate her body, like athletes did in Playboy, that's great," said Sia. "Great women have come off the pages of Playboy. Hefner was supportive in our bulimia recovery and asked for some of our books. Hefner and his wife are huge animal lovers that have been very supportive of our causes, which is flattering and inspiring."

Hef even helped the Barbi girls save a subspecies of marsh rabbit from extinction, and it was named after him, Sylvilagus palustris hefneri (Lower Keys marsh rabbit).

Of course, the "sexiest twins alive" have had their share of controversy. In their heyday, they were labelled "cartoon sweethearts", "bizarre and bulimic" and admitted they were "a trainwreck people loved to gawk at," in a Popdust interview.

Shane was quoted in Newsweek's Overheard section saying: "You can ask us about our cup size or favourite positions but please no personal questions."

And their faux-sexual image landed them in some eyebrow-raising positions. "I had to kiss my sister for a top magazine shoot in Europe and act like I liked it," said Sia. "Bad breath!"

Their dairy industry expose.

Their dairy industry expose. Source: Supplied

The poster for their anti-fur documentary.

The poster for their anti-fur documentary. Source: Supplied

Shane and Sia say Hugh Hefner has been hugely supportive. Source: Supplied

The sisters, who continue to dress alike to this day, are quick to mock each other. "I'm the better half," said Shane, who is one half of a real-life Ken and Barbi union with actor Ken Wahl, although he claims "he's never been sure which one" he married.

"It's like living in a Twilight Zone episode," said Sia. "Dressing alike is like the twins from The Shining ... super creepy."

Shane first contacted about the scandalous Yulin dog meat festival last weekend. "I saw same with [Hurricane] Katrina," she said. "The big organisations did zero, used TV for disturbing ads and sat on their asses while collecting millions -- I called state attorney general on them and blasted them on Howard Stern, risking a lawsuit, but it was the best thing. I uncovered all the corruption."

In 2000, the sisters walked away from Hollywood because of "serious stalking problems", and entered a modified witness protection program. "We ate our way out of jobs," said Sia. "We had top campaigns booked, and our manager would ask, 'is this a fat or a thin week?' And I'd reply, 'Rhetorical!' At least part of our recovery was contribution, and making a vow to allow us to eat anything and everything but animals and animal products."

As 90s sex symbols, they used to binge and purge, and work out for 10 hours a day. Source: Getty Images

They are pro-guns and pro-life -- but pro-gay rights. Source: Getty Images

But their image remained burned into the consciousness of those who grew up in the 90s, and they could never totally escape their strange brand of fame.

They appeared in animated TV series Eek! The Cat playing twin rocket scientists, Dr Shane and Dr Sia, and went on television to discuss their eating disorders.

Now 52, they trade off their names to advance ethical causes, running a campaign group called the Twin Bunny Liberation Front, lobbying for animal bills and endangered species, volunteering at shelters and protesting against pet shops, puppy mills, circuses, factory farms and animal cruelty.

They posed for unsettling movie posters for their anti-fur documentary Skin Trade and dairy industry expose Earthlings; associate-produced animal rights documentary Your Mommy Kills Animals and dressed up for True Cowboy magazine to support wild horses.

Are they worried about being taken seriously? "My sister doesn't take me seriously, so no expectations, no disappointments," said Sia. "This isn't a popularity contest. And if they don't take us seriously, then that's like playing a winning game of poker with a poker face no one can figure out."

They believe they have "a poker face no one can figure out." Source: Getty Images

Their next project is a sex tape ... about animal neutering. Source: Getty Images

They have enlisted a slew of famous friends to support their projects -- Willie Nelson, Elayne Boosler, Joanna Krupa, Morgan Fairchild, Eric Roberts, Kelly LeBrock and Howard Stern.

"Playboy gave us our great podium for animal causes, how can we not be grateful for that," said Sia. "And Playboy was very protective of us when it came to sleazy propositions.

"Playboy was the first to take the risk and put a gorgeous transgender in their magazine; can't get more progressive and supportive of human rights than that."

In 2012, they announced a "dogumentary" on breed discrimination called I Have a Dream. They share stories of lost or abused animals on their Facebook page, which has 42,000 likes, and on Twitter, where they have 28,000 followers.

The Barbi twins say they "love ageing ungracefully" and are "just nostalgic for the old metabolism."

"Who wants to live in Groundhog Day, and relive something you already lived out?"

As for their next mission, ���It's about time we release our sex tape.

"Of course it will be twin bunnies promoting spay and neuter."

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