Young black girls may not always feel represented, but this year, Barbie plans to change that. What better time than during Black History Month?
As a young girl of color, it was pretty difficult to grow up without role models who looked like me. On TV, everyone was white and skinny. It was the same in books and in movies. Even when I got to pick out a new toy for my birthday, not once did I see a doll that looked like me. It seemed as if the entire world had been centered around someone else, someone decidedly not me. I was, without realizing it, "other." It was only when I got older that I started seeing strong brown women owning their identities. Thankfully, young girls of color these days will have it better than I did. In a never-before-seen move, Barbie has introduced a new line of black dolls in honor of Black History Month, The New York Post reports. The dolls, they hope, will help inspire girls to be and love themselves as they are.
Mattel, Barbie's parent company, collaborated with costume designer Shiona Turini in order to create a line of dolls in 10 different hairstyles, skin tones, and body types. The Barbie dolls feature dark skin tones and diverse African hairstyles. There are even "curvy" Barbie dolls in this collection to promote body acceptance and positivity. In an Instagram post, Turini announced the collaboration and celebrated the monumental line. She wrote, "Thank you, Barbie — for collaborating with me to create Barbies with braids, finger waves and everything in between. Chicks by the layers, all different flavors. And even a curvy doll, in a crop top, with waist-length twists. Baby Shiona is PROUD."
As of late, topics of African style and blackness have made it to front and center, with many discussing what it means to be of African heritage and embody that culture. For instance, several students have been suspended from school for wearing traditionally African hairstyles such as dreadlocks (though they were compliant with dress code). However, when a white individual wears the same hairdo, they are considered fashionable or trendy. Therefore, to honor black style on black bodies - even if they do just belong to Barbie dolls - is a significant win. The Barbies and their outfits were inspired by three color themes: monochromatic, snakeskin mixed with black and white, and sherbet colors.
Turini, explaining her inspiration behind each collection, shared, "My vision was to style diverse dolls in bold looks with themes seen throughout my work, like contrasting snakeskin and leopard, challenging traditional uniformity." Like me (and many others, I assume), the costume designer struggled to see herself while she was growing up. Thus, this was an important opportunity to help little girls like her feel represented. "I grew up obsessed with Barbie," she stated. "And while she was one of my first fashion icons, I clearly remember searching shelves for a doll that looked like me and coming up empty-handed."
To design her collection, she also looked to the first-ever black Barbie doll for inspiration. Introduced in 1980, this doll wore a sparkling red dress and had an afro. Speaking of the three collections she designed, Turini said, "Thank you, Barbie, for making my childhood dreams come true, customizing these... snakeskin boots and bodysuits, going through the painstaking process of giving Barbie twists and allowing me the freedom to create something special so that my community can see themselves represented in such an iconic brand... I hope other young children, and adult Barbie lovers, are as excited to see themselves reflected in these dolls as I am." For a little girl looking up at a shelf in a toy store, there's probably no better way to celebrate Black History Month.