Barbie turns 62 years old this month, just in time for Women’s History Month, and my goodness, did Barbie ever make women’s history! From setting world records with the “Midnight Red from 1965” Barbie selling for $17,000 at a London Christie’s auction in 2006, to the way Barbie has been bringing excitement to kids and stretching their imaginations since 1959, the dolls’ impact on the world has certainly been felt.
That isn’t to say things have always been perfect for the brand. Having started as a flawless, slim, and entirely unrealistic representation of women, there were years in which the world was begging to be able to see themselves in a Barbie.
So Barbie rose to meet their expectations! Determined to create dolls that girls could see as relatable role models, the toy company Mattel is developing a deep, beautiful collection to be so very proud of.
“Barbie has spanned three generations of girls, inspired them with over 200 careers, and sold more than a billion dolls in the process,” Lisa McKnight, SVP and Global Head of Barbie, said. “Barbie has clearly stood the test of time and remains the ultimate empowerment brand for the next generation.”
Just to prove it, here are six priceless life lessons that Barbie has taught us.
1. It’s OK to stand out.
In fact, it’s better! With decades of looks spanning both everyday ‘fits and experimental ensembles just for fun, Barbie has shown us the value of embracing our uniqueness and never being afraid to stand out in the crowd.
She was our first inspiration to put together an outfit and never play it safe, letting us dress her in accoutrements like a Christmas coat paired with the most “fashionable” jorts and purple tennies. (A very “alternative” look.) But she loved any outfit we gave her. As Barbie continues to evolve with us, may we also continue to take a note from her book and be proud to show off exactly who we are!
2. Keep expanding your imagination.
For many of us, Barbie taught us how to tell stories.
She was the reason we’d invite our friends over and simply “play imagination” for hours. Through the worlds we created with our friends, Barbie taught us how to share, how to be flexible, and how to dream about what was possible.
3. Our “sheroes” are not so distant.
The past 10 years have brought with them Barbie’s “Shero” and “Role Models” collections, making world-renowned, inspirational female heroes more relatable than ever.
These sheroes have included wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin, ballerina Misty Copeland, para-athlete wheelchair racer Madison De Rozario, model and body-positive activist Ashley Graham, and aviation trailblazer Amelia Earhart.
Barbie has brought these women into our lives in a way that helps girls everywhere relate to them and imagine that they could be just like them.
4. You can be whoever you want to be.
Created by businesswoman Ruth Handler, Barbie has long been representing women who are breaking glass ceilings and positioning themselves at the head of new tables. With over 200 careers under her belt, Barbie has shown us how it’s done.
“I love our astronaut Barbie from 1965. I mean this was a doll created before Neil Armstrong, a man, went to the moon, which was pretty impressive,” McKnight said.
And that was only the beginning! Barbie went on to become a surgeon in the ’70s, a CEO in the 1980s, and a presidential candidate in 1992 — all of which were rarities at the time.
Recently, they even added a robotics engineer to the collection, proving that Barbie is keeping a finger on the pulse of where girls are going and what they’re becoming.
5. There is power in a haircut.
Any success we may have had with our quarantine self-conducted haircuts has one source to thank: our collection of Barbies, which were at the mercy of our shears.
How many Barbies did we attempt to give bobs, braids, glorious updos, or even a head shave to? Our Barbies never judged and never complained. They loved us unconditionally no matter what we did to their locks and taught us a lifelong value: Never underestimate the power of feeling our best!
6. Every girl is beautiful.
“Playing with Barbie allows girls to imagine everything they can become,” McKnight explained. “While imagining you can be anything is the first step, seeing that you can is what makes all the difference. Role models like Gabby Douglas show girls that with determination and perseverance their potential is limitless.”
Moving further from its previous “idealistic” and “unattainable” era of dolls, Barbie has been determined to show as many variations as possible of what defines “beautiful.”
In 1980, we were introduced to the first-ever Black doll in the Barbie collection. In 2016, we met Barbie’s long-awaited plus-size dolls, and the past couple of years have added women with physical disabilities, vitiligo, and prosthetics in its mission to represent every girl.
“The way the brand has changed is the way we have changed in culture,” said Kim Culmone, Barbie’s senior vice president of design. “You’ll always see Barbie being reflective of what’s happening right now in society, in the world of fashion.”
In every decade, Barbie has remained a staple of excitement, imagination, inspiration, and storytelling to girls of all ages.
As McKnight put it, “We are using our global platforms to inspire girls and educate society on what we can do together to unlock their full potential. We can’t wait to see what is next for Barbie in the next 60 years to inspire the next generation of leaders.”
And neither can we!
Be sure to share this story with all your fellow Barbie lovers — young and old!
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