For a little girl growing up in the decades since the 1950s, Barbie doll was everything aspirational. She had an hourglass figure, long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and perfectly done up make-up. The ideas of beauty fit perfectly into everything that came in beautiful boxes, with a change of dress too, just in case Barbie had nothing to wear, an everyday problem most women probably face, even if their wardrobes are choc-a-block with all the ‘nothings’ in the world or what comprises their world. Barbie, our childhood companion, who always held a special place in our hearts and our toy shelves, has come a long way in the past six decades. She is the inspirational role model that all mothers would want their baby girls to hang out with. From stepping out into the world to work and being an equal, to understanding beauty and its various forms, Barbie’s role has been to teach the little girls how to grow up compassionate beings who only understand the language of love and kindness.
This year in March, the iconic doll is due to turn 60 and what a fantastic evolution she’s had through the years. When she was first created, Barbie had a much different appearance, which has evolved in looks with the changing times. What makes her different – is the acceptance of all shapes, sizes, colour, profession or vocations.
Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator, had been quoted saying, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.” She then added that acting out of future scenarios helped a girl’s self-confidence. It was Ruth’s daughter, Barbara whose playtime with paper dolls lent Ruth the idea to make a three dimensional doll in which girls could act out their dreams. Hence, Barbara Millicent Roberts aka Barbie was born and introduced to the world at the American International Toy Fair in New York in 1959.
According to Barbie’s official website, “86% of moms surveyed are worried about the kind of role models their daughters are exposed to. That’s why Barbie continues to showcase examples of inspirational women. From Sheroes to Inspiring Women… all extraordinary women we’ve honored with a doll in their likeness.”
Singer Aqua, whose perky number, I’m A Barbie Girl, seemed to be a tribute to Barbie doll at the time of its release, but close attention to its lyrics reveal how it borders on the offensive for any woman, especially when the idea of the doll and its various occupations are meant to uplift spirits and morales in order to inspire girls.
Here’s a timeline of Barbie’s evolution, 1959 onwards. Read on for a little bit of nostalgia:
1959: Barbie makes her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York.
1961: Barbie’s on-off boyfriend, Ken makes his debut. The two dolls have been named after Barbie creator Ruth Handler’s children.
1965: Barbie becomes an astronaut and goes to space, four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon. Barbie has successfully tried out over 200 careers till date.
She got bendable legs the same year.
1967: The first celebrity Barbie is issued — in the form of British model Twiggy.
1968: Christie, a friend for Barbie and Mattel’s first black doll was marketed by Barbie’s parent company, Mattel.
1970: The first fully articulated Barbie is created.
1973: The collector’s edition Barbie in Marilyn Monroe’s avatar came to be.
1980: The first Black Barbie is marketed.
1992: Ms. President meets the world marking the first time Barbie is a presidential candidate.
2004: Barbie breaks up with Ken for a surfer named Blaine, the brother of a friend of hers. But the relationship hardly lasts.
2009: Katrina Kaif is the first Bollywood icon to be crafted in the form of a Barbie doll. She follows a long line of international stars namely Marilyn Monroe, Shakira, Audrey Hepburn, Heidi Klum and Elizabeth Taylor, who have all been previously immortalised in Barbie doll sculpts.
2011: Ken officially returns to Barbie’s life on Valentine’s Day that year.
2014: Ella, a bald friend of Barbie suffering from cancer is produced by Mattel. She is gifted free to children going through chemotherapy who have lost their hair.
2015: Barbie is now a Shero and makes her debut in the avatar of Fencing champion, Ibtihaj Muhammad.
2016: Barbie is on the front page of Time magazine when she is introduced in several new looks: tall, petite and curvy.
She has been embracing body positivity too when Ashley Graham, the well-known body positivity activist got her doll iteration and her first request to Mattel before this happened was that her thighs should touch. Upon release, Ashley received several mails and social media comments from fans who admitted how there was finally someone who looked like them.
The latest Barbie collection features the Holiday collectibles and fashionistas around the world.
First Published: Jan 02, 2019 16:35 IST