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Barbie Millicent Rogers

PHOTO History of Ethnic Barbie Dolls Through the Years

This year Sports Illustrated marked the 50th issue of its widely popular Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition by devoting an entire spread to the iconic Barbie doll. And of course, the decision did not come without controversy and the usual back and forth debate and banter about Barbie, what she means to little girls and  their self esteem, and to beauty ideals.
Instead of jumping on that bandwagon, I thought I’d re share a quite popular spread we did a few years back during the 50th birthday of the doll and used the occasion to pay homage to how ethnic Barbies had developed through the years since Barbie first came on the scene. 
Enjoy this trip down blog memory lane:

Barbie, full name Barbara Millicent Rogers, was first introduced on the market on March 9, 1959. Her boyfriend, Ken, debuted in 1961.
She has always been controversial for activist-type moms who fear that the doll represents an unattainable and idiolized form of beauty that they don’t want their daughters striving to achieve.

Many moms “of color” have opposed Barbie because they say she represents a beauty ideal that their daughters can never attain (and look natural trying): blue eyes and blond hair.

However, a few year’s after her introduction, Mattel introduced a doll with darker complexion.

Francie doll introduced in 1967
In 1967, Mattel released a “colored” Francie doll that was made in the same mold as Barbie but just still had European facial features and body shape. 
Francie was featured on the Cover of Vogue Italia’s Black Barbie issue in 2009
Only in 2009, did Mattel release a “black Barbie” for commercial (non-collection) sale that had African features. 

First Black Barbie doll, introduced in 2009, that had African features

Asian parents wanted in too and wondered when Barbie would come in a version that resembled their little girls.  In 2010, Mattel released its first ever Asian doll, a Ken version, which many Asians complained should’ve been dressed like a modern Asian man in a t-shirt and jeans and not a Kabuki-looking, domo outfit.

A few years ago, when Mattel tried to modernize and release chic and updated dolls, mainly for adult collectors,  I noticed the Barbie Basic  dolls which featured dolls of various ethnic faces, hair styles and texture. 

In fact, it was the first time I saw a dark complexioned doll with a mini Afro. I took a photo of it but in the caption, I noted how the black dolls were dressed extra provocatively and one had on a J-Lo style navel cut dress.  Upon research, I discovered that several African American parents were up in arms over the dolls. But honestly, since they were collector items for adults, I really didn’t see much harm in them, unless they are complaining about Black women being portrayed as hypersexual in the media too much, then okay.

Over the years, Mattel has released various ethnic dolls, though for collectors and not commercial sale.

In, 2009, Italian designer Eliana Lorena outfitted over 500 Barbies in multicultural clothing for a charity auction to benefit Save the Children at Sotheby’s in Florence, Italy, to celebrate the then 50th anniversary of Barbie. Among those in the collection:
These dolls had ethnic features.
And then periodically, there are those celebrity replicas such as those our sister site Poshthesocialite featured last year:
Nicki Minaj Barbie
Halle Berry – “Die Another Day” James Bond Barbie
Janet Jackson Barbie
Diana Ross Barbie
 Beyonce
Kimora Lee Simmons
Beyond Ethnic Barbie, other controversial ones cylced in too…

There was that pregnant Midge , Barbie’s cousin, who scared parents into thinking Barbie was going to convince their baby girls they should get knocked up. She didn’t last on the shelves too long.
People went bonkers when a blogger spoke out against the idea of a Bald Barbie for children undergoing chemotherapy while suffering with cancer and Leukemia. 
And folks got mad when they thought Mexican Barbie came with her passport to prove she was a citizen.
Despite it all, Barbie has weathered the storm and stays on the scene. She is a ride or die chick. Outlasting it all.
What do you think about Barbie’s legacy and changes through the years?

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