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New, More Realistic Black Barbie Still Controversial

By Amy Kuras |

black-barbie Have you seen the new African-American Barbies? I haven’t. But according to this Broadsheet post, the dolls are generating much discussion from parents of all races.

See, the dolls, unlike Barbies of old, are designed to reflect the way black women actually look, versus the old Barbies which were exactly the same as the white ones but made out of dark brown plastic and topped with the same long, straight hair in black instead of blonde. Doll designer Stacy McBride-Irby drew inspiration from her own young daughters for the dolls, which have wider noses and fuller lips.

Some parents think the dolls don’t go far enough, especially in terms of hair. One has curly hair, while the other two have long, wavy, light brown hair or the same long, straight hair as the original. And one of the accessories for the dolls is a kit that lets girls straighten the hair of their dolls. Some parents feel (rightfully, I think) that this will just add to the beauty issues little black girls can have, reinforcing the message that having straight hair is the norm and of course you’d want to change your hair, or your doll’s hair if it wasn’t that way.

And of course, some people are saying that the dolls still perpetuate the unrealistic notions of how women are supposed to look, just like the white Barbie. Because no matter how realistic or not these dolls might look from the neck up, from the neck down they’re still all Barbie.

Personally, I have no issue with Barbie. I went through a protracted Barbie phase and if anything it just improved my fashion sense (slightly, I might add). I just bought my daughter her first one. I think if the messages girls are getting place emphasis on their value as a person beyond their looks, they are smart enough to figure out on their own that lots of beautiful people look nothing at all like Barbie.

I did always wish there was a brown-haired Barbie that looked more like me, though. And I’m thinking if I were raising an African-American daughter, I’d be pleased that there was a doll that reflected her own beauty, not simply handed her a darker-skinned version of the white “ideal.”

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About Amy Kuras


Amy Kuras

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3 thoughts on “New, More Realistic Black Barbie Still Controversial

  1. lindsay mays says:

    the doll does not even look like the average black woman, she looks more mixed. and with straight hair, she wont look black at all.she could easily pass for mexican! i do give mattel credit for making the hair more african-american, but whats up with the straightner? what a joke!

  2. Naila says:

    Where did all the black barbies go????? We need more of them! I went to the Toys “R” Us on Quioccasin Road and they did not have 1 single black barbie! It was insane, someone needs to tell barbie that they need more black dolls!!!

  3. Claire says:

    I don’t care if this version of Barbie can pass for Mexican. I am Black, and when I was growing up in NYC, I was always approached by Spanish speakers because I could pass as hispanic. Face it folks, there are a b’jillion different ways to be and look Black. There is no one right way. Now! Another matter i the hair, & Barbie dolls will feature lovely kinky, curly, locked, cornrowed hair, when that’s what little girls insist on, because they’re taught their own hair is wonderful and they want to see it that on their dolls. Really – that’s one thing I totally believe. Right now, that semi-straight hair is on Black Barbie heads, because that’s what sells, and that is what the average little girl, whatever her race, wants. That will change, if and only if, we ourselves, as Black people (ok, African American, I’m an old fart of 60 yrs) accept our hair and pass that love of our hair to our kids, grand kids, etc. OK? Don’t blame the doll makers for givlng kids what kids seem to want – straight(ish) hair.

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