Barbie's New Look

By Rachel Benbrook, IATGFebruary 1, 2016



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Barbie has long been a cultural icon for young girls. I can still remember playing with my Barbie’s and the excitement of inheriting my mother’s Barbie collection from the 1960s. There is no doubt that few toys have the same popularity as Barbie dolls.

Despite its longstanding popularity, the iconic Barbie doll has drawn just as much criticism as it has cultural appreciation. For years, many have noted the doll’s “perfect” physique and wondered about its impact on young girls’ perception of body image and self-esteem.

In addition to unrealistic body expectations, there has also always been a the lack of racial diversity and hairstyles in Barbie’s generic appearance. Barbie seemed to spread the message that the ideal woman is tall, thin, blonde, and tan. This is an unrealistic body image for many young girls and, in my opinion, was always particularly troubling to girls of a different race or ethnic group.

I can remember having discussions with my mother on Barbie’s perfect appearance and our frustrations that she didn’t look similar to us or the many other women that we knew. We always wondered why Barbie didn’t reflect a wider audience. Now, thanks to years of others harboring similar frustrations, it looks as though the tide may be turning.

After nearly 60 years of being a cultural icon, the staff at Barbie has launched Project Dawn. Barbie’s will now reflect numerous types of body shapes and sizes, as well as different races and hairstyles.

Evelyn Mazzocco, senior VP and Barbie’s global general manager, has said the following about the new project,” We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand- these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them-the variety in body type, skin tones, and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”

The new line of Barbie’s will feature seven different skin tones and twenty-four new hairstyles. This wide array of diversity will hopefully help young girls find a doll that they can resonate with and teach them to embrace diversity.

This new step in Barbie’s appearance has been hailed by many as a victory. Andrew Radford, the chief executive of eating disorder charity, Beat, expressed his excitement over what he views as a very positive change in assisting cultural mindsets to shift. “ For a long time Beat has campaigned against the constant portrayal of a very slender look as the only aspirational ideal for young people,” he said.  “If a generation is to grow up with a robust sense of their self worth, we must challenge this.”

The new line of Barbies is inspirational to me. I believe every young girl can relate the importance of Barbie’s in their play as children and can relate to the unrealistic expectations that Barbie helped to perpetuate in young girls. This new marketing campaign is a positive step to helping young girls embrace self-acceptance and cultural diversity.

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About Rachel

RACHEL_BENBROOK_writer_bio_(2).jpgRachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Leeds where she studied Political Communications. She is a passionate advocate of strong friendships, caffeine, social justice, current events, travels and adventures, as well as all things peanut butter. She enjoys watching Parks and Recreation, as well as teaching English to new language learners.


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