Eight Barbies Made After Famous and Inspiring Black WomenJul 20, 2022 10:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Play is important. It shapes a child’s imagination and their world view and dolls are an important part of that process. They’re also historical artifacts. The Barbie brand has been in Africa for decades but never before has the world-famous doll looked like a lot of African girls. Several trailblazing and record-setting Black women have had their contributions to our works immortalized in doll forms.
Imagine being a young Black girl and getting the chance to wake up to your favorite Black female icons. Thanks to American company Mattel, producers of the fashion doll Barbie, young Black girls can now take home their favorite inspiring Black women.
Misty Copeland is an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history. The fashions for the doll were inspired by her Firebird costume from her first ABT principal role. Copeland was intimately involved in the doll's design and partnered with Barbie on all the details. The doll is part of the Barbie Sheroes program, which honors women who inspire girls by breaking boundaries and expanding possibilities for a diverse group of women.
Read more about Misty Copeland:
In August of 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Read More »
South African singer Lerato "Lira" Molapo made toy history when she changed the face of Barbie in Africa by getting a doll modeled after her. In a statement on her Instagram, Molapo said: “I’m deeply honored to be Barbie’s first African role model and am excited to align with a brand that is on a mission to show girls more diverse role models.” The “Lira doll” is part of Barbie’s 60th anniversary campaign aimed at inspiring more girls by celebrating diversity.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka was turned into a doll for Barbie's "Role Models" series. "It's such an honor to be a part of the Barbie Role Model series, and to remind young girls that they can make a difference in the world. I want young girls everywhere to feel empowered to dream big," Osaka said in a statement. Osaka was born in Chūō-ku in Osaka and her mother was Japanese, while her father was from Haiti. She has been ranked number one by the Women's Tennis Association and she is a four-time Grand Slam singles champion. At the 2018 US Open and the 2019 Australian Open, Osaka won her first two Grand Slam singles titles in back-to-back Grand Slam tournaments. She was the first woman to win successive Grand Slam singles titles since Serena Williams in 2015.
Read about Naomi Osaka's skincare brand:
Superstar tennis athlete Naomi Osaka is making sure that melanated skin remains protected against the sun with a new skincare brand. Learn more about what KINLÒ will offer. Read More »
Yara Sayeh Shahidi is an American actress. Barbie honored the Grown-ish star(opens in new tab) with the doll to celebrate the company's 60th anniversary. Mattel, Shahidi, and Shahidi's mom worked together to design the doll, working together to find the right hair texture and skin tone and pick the perfect outfit. The actress's choice? A gray suit paired with a colorful limited-edition Tory Burch "Vote" t-shirt(opens in new tab) and a black backpack adorned with an "I Voted" sticker.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American saber fencer and member of the United States fencing team. She is known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a headscarf while competing for the United States in the Olympics, as well as for winning an Olympic medal wearing it. She made history again by teaming up with Mattel to create a Barbie designed after her. It's the first-ever Barbie to wear a hijab, which makes it a crucial win for inclusivity and representation. "I hope that little girls of color across the heartland will be inspired to embrace what makes them unique," she said of girls who will play with this Barbie.
Ava DuVernay is an American filmmaker, television producer, and film publicist. She won the directing award in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film, Middle of Nowhere; becoming the first Black woman to win the award. DuVernay is known for directing films such as "Selma" and the documentary "13th" about mass incarceration. DuVernay sees her customized doll as an important toy, not because it's in her likeness, but because it's "representative of a different image": a Black woman with natural hair, feet in sneakers and seated in a director's chair. It's that last accessory that's of special significance to DuVernay.
Read more about Ava DuVernay:
Four-time Emmy-nominated actress, Emmy-winning producer, and the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a scripted TV show and LGBTQ+ activist Laverne Cox became a Tribute Collection Barbie in time for Pride Month, and her 50th birthday on May 29. “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll,” Laverne said in a statement. “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”
Read more about Laverne Cox:
Laverne Cox is a trailblazer in the Trans community. Today we celebrate her 49th birthday! Read More »
Geraldina Asher-Smith is an English sprinter. She is the fastest British woman in recorded history and has been listed in the Powerlist as one of the UK's most influential people of African/African Caribbean descent. The Asher-Smith Barbie doll comes wearing a Nike cropped vest and running shorts - the outfit Asher-Smith wore when she won a historic gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in Doha. "Growing up, sportswomen were less visible in the media and there is still a gap when it comes to women's sports, which is why representation is so important," she added. "For Barbie to champion female athletes and different sports shows future generations that anything is possible. I hope little girls will see my doll and be inspired to take up and continue to enjoy sports."
Read about another Barbie doll made in honor of a Black female icon:
As written by Adlea Suliman of the Washington Post in a recent release, "Black American journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells will have her likeness transformed ... Read More »
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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