Celebrating People of Colour With Mattel’s Barbie

How Mattel are changing the iconic Barbie doll to be more inclusive

Since I started writing I’ve noticed that the strongest people to make a difference are usually women. We stand up for the things we believe in, especially when it comes to representation of race, gender and sexuality. And one thing that women have changed, in this case, is what our children will be playing with. More specifically, the Barbie dolls children will be playing with.

One of the most influential parts of our lives is our childhood, and our experiences as children shape who we grow into as adults. Toys are a big part of out lives as children as they help us flex our creativity without boundaries, and one of the most well-known toys for young girls, and now boys too, is a Barbie doll. She was the woman who aimed to encourage young girls that you could do any job you wanted and that’s why people loved her. She is the perfect inspirational doll for a young girl but… she’s white, and blonde, she has blue eyes and is tall and skinny. The blonde hair, blue eyes look that Barbie has had since she started in 1959 is a representation of only a small percentage of UK women and girls. This means most women and young girls don’t look how a typical barbie looks.

Representation within pop culture is very important for everyone, but especially people of colour as the past has shown that sometimes their differences of culture, skin tone, or accent have been used at punch lines in TV shows and film. This is degrading and not all that inspiring for those people who are being excluded.  

Barbie in the past have created black dolls, their first was Barbie’s friend, Christie who was introduced in 1968. Since then Mattel have been slowly introducing more racially diverse, and body diverse Barbies into their collection on their website. In 2016, it’s like they had a wakeup call, because now their range of dolls contain a Ken doll and a Barbie doll in a wheelchair, dolls who are amputees, a doll with vitiligo (like fashion model Winnie Harlow), they even have a doll with no hair. And all these dolls are dolls of colour, which I believe is a step forward in the right direction. Many of Mattel’s Barbie collection from the early 2000s, like the mermaid and the fairy dolls, have now got a choice of a doll of colour or a caucasian doll, which brings in inclusivity when parents buy dolls for their children.

Having a doll that is representative of your skin tone or others skin tone can be very impactful on a young girl growing up. Barbie was made to inspire young girls, so they could feel they could do anything despite their gender. But now Barbie have a range of dolls who can inspire the young girls of colour to be whatever they want to be as a person of colour.

Written by Zinnia Bridgman