Just in time for Black History Month, Mattel is releasing a new doll celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Black Barbie.
According to Uptown’s Lifestyle Maven, “there had been Black dolls in the Mattel line since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1980 that one of the dolls was named ‘Barbie.’ Previously, those Mattel dolls with their melanin popping were just friends of Barbie, like Christie and Francie.”
Wow! I never knew that.
Earlier this month, Mattel debuted the Barbie Signature 40th Anniversary First Black Barbie Collector Doll ($39.99) on social media and baby, she is beautiful and as elegant as ever! Donning a gorgeous crimson ball gown with cutaway sleeves, a perfect red lip, and a glorious afro, this melanated stunner finishes off her ensemble with matching red heels, a gold clutch, and necklace.
“Because representation is everything.❤️ Making her debut in 1980, the first-ever black fashion doll to have the name #Barbie sparked a new era of possibility for girls everywhere. #BlackHistoryMonth,” the company wrote on its Instagram page.
Kitty Black Perkins who was the designer back in the 80s told Uptown that she wanted to go against the grain of how the past and current blond, slim white Barbies were designed when creating her Barbies aimed for African-Americans.
“I wanted her to reflect what the [B]lack culture was, and what was familiar to our [B]lack collectors and children that actually played with Barbie dolls.”
That, and the doll was inspired by none other than iconic singer Diana Ross.
“I was just in awe of the way they dressed – the dignity, the fashion, and everything that they would wear was just special to me,” said Perkins.
While in 2010, Mattel reissued the first Black Barbie on its 30th anniversary, this time around, designer Bill Greening wanted to do something different, give it more of an updated look.
“We didn’t want to do another reproduction, since we had already been there and done that,” Greening stressed.
“So it felt like this was a good time to pay tribute to the original design but with an updated look to it. And we wanted to make sure that the key elements of the original Black Barbie were in the new design, paying homage to Kitty’s original design inspiration.”
It cannot be denied that over the past decade, especially in the last couple of years, Barbie has raised the bar when it comes to representation.
Nowadays, these not all of the dolls are stick-thin and blond, perpetuating a limiting and oppressive white standard of beauty. This new crop has real curves and thighs; fros, twists, and purple hair; and come in a range of skin colors from the lightest cafe au lait to the deepest of melanin. Not to mention, our babies can have dolls that embody some of our most cherished Black sheroes, such as Rosa Parks, Ava DuVernay and ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson.
Most recently, they launched a new line that celebrates different body types and issues such as vitiligo, alopecia and more. This is the change we like to see and it’s awesome to see where it all started from with the original Black Barbie.