The Barbie Doll Franchise has been around for around sixty years, manufactured by the American toy company Mattel. They quickly became described as the most popular doll in the world, with over a billion dolls sold.
Nevertheless, in 2014, sales dropped, following a string of controversies which included underrepresentation and body shaming. From their conception, concerns surrounding the slimness of Barbie's stature and how children may look at her as a role model and emulate her shone through.
Some of the most controversial moments that Barbie endeavored included the 'Barbie Baby-Sits', which came with a book entitled 'How to Lose Weight' with advice that simply stated 'Don't Eat!'
Another controversy was in 1997 when Barbie's figure was redesigned to give her a larger waist, named 'Curvy' barbie, despite her only being the equivalent of a women's size 4.
Mattel responded to claims of non-inclusiveness in 1980, producing Hispanic dolls, going further in 2007 by introducing the 'Cinco de Mayo Barbie' wearing a ruffled red, white, and green dress.
However, in 2020, Barbie began changing their dolls again and giving their customers more range than the tall, slim, blonde character that we know. There are now six new Barbie Dolls being created to honor women working in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
Well, now an Australian doctor is among the six professionals being honored for their work by having a Barbie Doll modeled on them. Kirby White is an Australian doctor based in Victoria who pioneered Gowns for Doctors, an initiative behind surgical gowns that can be washed and reused by frontline workers during the pandemic.
She is one of 6 women being honored with a barbie doll made in her likeness, as part of a line of Barbie 'role model' dolls.
Another being honored with a doll is British woman Sarah Gilbert; a professor at Oxford University who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine. The doll depicts Professor Gilbert wearing a black trouser suit with a white shirt and glasses.
"My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist," she told the Independent.
Others include emergency room nurse Amy O'Sullivan, who treated the first Covid-19 patients at the Wycoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and Audrey Cruz, a frontline doctor in Las Vegas who fought against discrimination.
Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a Canadian psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto who battled systematic racism in healthcare, and Brazilian biomedical researcher Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, who led sequencing of the genome of a COVID-19 variant in Brazil, also feature.
These STEM Barbie Dolls are part of the franchise's image make-over, by releasing several ranges of dolls aimed at diversifying its lineup. The dolls follow on from last year's which showcased "a multi-dimensional view of beauty" and "represent global diversity and inclusivity". These new additions included a barbie with no hair and another having the skin condition vitiligo.
May 1997 saw 'Share a Smile Barbie', a doll in a pink wheelchair Kjersti Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student in Tacoma, Washington with cerebral palsy. It was pointed out that the doll would not fit into the elevator of Barbie's $100 Dream House. Mattel announced that it would redesign the house in the future to accommodate the doll.
Since 1980, when Mattel introduced the first Black Barbie, the brand now offers 22 skin tones, 94 hair colors, 13 eye colors and five body types.
In a statement, Mattel said that it aimed to "redefine what it means to be a Barbie or look like Barbie" with the launch of its new doll with vitiligo, adding that it will allow children to "play out even more stories they see in the world around them".