By looking at Barbie, one would never tell she’s already turning 60. Her flawless skin with not one single wrinkle in sight, her shiny hair and white smile don’t show her age, I guess that’s what Aqua meant by singing “life in plastic, is fantastic”.
Ruth Handler, the co-founder of the American toy manufacturer Mattel, invented the most famous doll in the world, Barbie. Named after her daughter Barbara in 1959, the doll was an instant success, selling 300,000 in the first year only. Each year, more than 58 million Barbies are sold in more than 150 countries around the world.
But not everything in Barbie’s life is picture-perfect. She’s had her fair share of criticisms too, because of the lack of diversity and her unreal and unattainable figure. The impossibly long legs, tiny waist and big boobs have made many girls feel inadequate. In 1968, the first coloured Barbie appeared and nowadays, the world-famous doll comes in seven skin tones, 22 eye-colours, 24 hairstyles and finally, in three different body types. Over the years, many movie characters like the magical nanny Mary Poppins for instance, have had a Barbie doll in their likeness.
Now that’s she’s turning 60, we need to set Barbie’s record straight. She’s made an enormous effort to dismiss her image of a blond bimbo and superficial Californian girl; she wants to be taken seriously and show the world that she’s more than only a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. In these 60 years, Barbie has come quite a long way. From the “perfect housewife”, she’s gone to College and got into more than 180 professions, from ballerina to surgeon and even President, you name it, Barbie can do it all. As a matter of fact, when Neil Armstrong took that huge step for humankind as he walked on the moon, Barbie was rolling her eyes thinking: “been there, done that”; she had already become an astronaut in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong’s achievement! Robert Best, the director of design at Barbie, says that as a doll that represents the female, it is essential to send a positive message, showing girls that they are able to do these different kinds of things.
Barbie is universally known around the world, like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. One sign that a celebrity is really is a star is when she receives the honour of having her own version of the iconic doll.
Women such as Gigi Hadid, Zendaya, Elizabeth Taylor, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Cher, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, even Prince William and Kate have been honoured with their dolls. And being a true American doll, of course, Elvis and Priscilla Presley too, have been immortalised by Mattel, both in their wedding gowns!
Some extraordinary women such as the painter Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, the aviation pioneer, Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician and Physicist, and many other role models have been celebrated by Barbie to inspire and empower young girls, and we believe this is the secret that allows Barbie to remain young and relevant even after 60 years. Our personal favourite is with no doubt, the Iris Apfel Barbie, styled by no other than the 96-year-old style icon herself.
The latest news is that the Australian actress Margot Robbie was cast in the first-ever live-action Barbie movie, she will not only star in the film but also produce it. The actress said that “playing with Barbie promotes confidence, curiosity and communication throughout a child’s journey to self-discovery. Over the brand’s almost 60 years, Barbie has empowered kids to imagine themselves in aspirational roles from a princess to president.“
Photos @ Mattel