The Barbie “So In Style” line features, from left, Grace and Courtney, Trichelle and Janessa and Kara and Kianna.
By MEGAN K. SCOTT
NEW YORK — Mattel has launched a new line of black Barbie dolls with fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheek bones — a far cry from Christie, Barbie’s black friend who debuted in the 1960s and was essentially a white doll painted brown.
The “So In Style” line, which hit mass retailers last month, features BFFs Grace, Kara and Trichelle, each with her own style and interests and a little sister she mentors: Courtney, Janessa and Kianna. The dolls reflect varying skin tones — light brown, chocolate, and caramel — and Trichelle and Kianna have curlier hair.
Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby, who is black and has a 6-year-old daughter, said she wanted to create a line of dolls for young black girls that looked like them and were inspirational and career-minded. For example, Kara is interested in math and music.
“I want them to see themselves within these dolls, and let them know that black is beautiful,” she said.
Many black women are praising Mattel for its efforts — Black Barbie hit the shelves in 1980 with white features shared by many of the dolls following her.
But some say the dolls with long straight hair are not “black enough” and do not address the beauty issues that many black girls struggle with. In the black community, long, straight hair is often considered more beautiful than short kinky hair.
Chris Rock highlights the issue in his Good Hair documentary, which opens in select cities on Friday and shows black women straightening their tight curls with harsh chemicals and purchasing thousand-dollar hair weaves.
“Why are we always pushing this standard of long hair on our girls?” asked Gail Parrish, 60, a playwright in Alexandria, Va., and a mother of four grown children. “Why couldn’t one of the dolls have a little short afro, or shorter braids or something?”
McBride-Irby said she originally designed all the dolls with long hair. Combing her Barbie’s long hair when she was a girl was the “highlight of my play experience,” she said. She was advised to create some dolls with curlier hair, so she did. Read more.