How Barbie has empowered us through the years

Inclusive barbie dolls stood in a line

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic

I think I can say on behalf of all of us that Barbie was a huge part of our childhood. I had an endless collection of dolls, clothes, houses, cars – you name it. My Barbies lived alongside me. And of course, like any child, no matter how beautiful their hair was, we would always give them a dodgy haircut or a poorly attempted plait. Barbies were like your little sidekick, and it’s those childhood memories that you don’t expect to have such a huge influence on the rest of your life. 

Now, it’s fair to say that Barbie has undergone a bit of controversy. Those of us who can still remember the classic Barbie doll will envision a long legged, slim waisted, blonde babe who’s chasing after Ken and lounging by the pool in her Dream house. Am I right? We all know she was always known as the classic Barbie. Since she was first released in 1959, people would criticise her for having unrealistic body proportions or for being too slim. 

However, in recent years, Barbie has gone through a number of changes to make her into a positive and empowering figure for children. She is now the most inclusive and diverse doll in the world and is continuing her legacy to inspire millions of girls through imaginative and creative play. 

We spoke to Kim Culmone, the Senior Vice President at Mattel and Head of Global Barbie Design, all about Barbie and how she has grown to become the iconic doll we know her to be today. 

“Since 1959 the creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, created the brand under the mission that girls could be anything they wanted to be. When we fast forward many decades ahead, Barbie has always been a reflection of culture. So, the reason why this brand has lasted as long as it has is because she has always evolved as the world has evolved.” 

“As the standards of beauty have begun to shift within culture, to have a single image of a woman represented within a doll seemed out of step with the world. The more girls that see themselves in the product line, the more they will benefit from the positive attributes of doll play, and the more of them who will hear the message of the brand:

Huda Beauty

To believe in yourself and to do whatever it is that you want to do in the world.” 

So in honour of Barbie, we are going to run through all the times she has empowered, inspired and encouraged young girls and boys to be who they want to be. 

She is becoming all body inclusive

Back in 2016, Mattel released a Barbie Fashionista Collection, which featured a new line of diverse and inclusive dolls with nine body types, 35 skin tones and 94 hair types. We can all look and see ourselves through her. The dolls are now reflecting physical disabilities, like using a wheelchair, as well as other features such as vitiligo. Kim said: “It’s important to see versions of ourselves reflected back to us through media and culture. If girls see something that looks like them, it’s validating.” So now she is more than a doll. She’s a role model and someone who girls can relate to. 

She is helping to break down the stereotype around Mental Health

In a short vlog named “Feeling blue? You’re not alone”, hosted by Barbie herself, she covered the tricky and very important topic of mental health. In the video, like all of us, she spoke about how she woke up feeling blue for no reason and discussed ways that you can feel better. She really opened up and let out a real side that we have never known Barbie to have. 

The launch of career dolls- where you can be anything you want to be. 

Back in the day, you’d always think of Barbie as the babysitter, the mother or sitting in the beauty salon. But now, with the release of the career dolls Barbie can be anything she wants to be. Actually Barbie really is quite the career woman. Since she was released in 1959, she has had over 200 careers including a teacher, firefighter, journalist or even pilot! She is really empowering girls to enter any career they want to.“Not only is it important for girls to see themselves in terms of their physical appearance, but also in achievement and in different fields. It can be challenging to strive for what you want to achieve if you don’t have role models,” said Kim. 

Inspiring women are getting their own dolls (Barbie role models) 

To really show to girls that they can be who they want to be, Mattel released a line of dolls that honour role models from around the world and to introduce young girls to these inspiring women. The line includes activists, athletes, actresses and models. All women who are paving the way for the next generation of powerful girls. 

The Barbie Dream Gap Project 

Back in 2018, Barbie launched the Barbie Dream Gap Project to support and encourage young girls to believe in themselves. Research shows that at as young as 5,  girls develop beliefs that they aren’t as smart or as capable as boys, so as part of the Barbie Dream Gap Project Barbie have teamed up with GoFundMe to help close the gap and work to change the lives of girls. 

“What you see as “just playing Barbie” today is actually preparing her for her future.” 

“I am very proud of the legacy that I get to carry on of inspiring girls,” said Kim. “It’s one thing to inspire but it’s another thing to enable, and i get excited about how Barbie can enable girls to be and do anything they want to do.” 

She really is the girl who’s done it all. Barbie has been and will continue to be a true icon to many of us. So we can only wait and see how her legacy, empowerment and positivity grows to inspire the next generation of role models.

Tags: Barbie, empowerment, Mattel, the femme, women empowerment

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Co-Founder. Squash obsessed. Body positivity advocate. My fridge is the love of my life.
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