Mattel Made Barbie More Relatable—but Could It Do More?

The toymaker recently released a groundbreaking new line of dolls, but many have taken to the Internet to encourage more change.
(Photo: YouTube)
Feb 5, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Alex Reed is an editorial intern at TakePart and a senior at the University of Southern California.

It’s been a long time coming, but Barbie’s world is finally starting to look more like the real world.

Last year, Mattel released a line of Barbie dolls that included eight different skin tones and a number of new hairstyles to represent minority groups. This year, the toy company will sell dolls with three new body types—tall, petite, and curvy—and add skin tones, eye colors, and hairstyles to represent other minority groups.

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“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,” Evelyn Mozzocco, senior vice president and global general manager of Barbie, said in a press release late last month.

While the company has received a lot of praise for Barbie’s latest makeover, some have been inspired to demand more of the company in terms of representing its diverse consumer base.

A recent petition, started by Remy Ocampo, hopes Mattel will build on its current momentum by producing a doll inspired by late Latin singer Selena.

“There has yet to be any curvy Hispanic Barbie dolls in any Barbie line and we think Selena is a perfect candidate for that kind of representation,” Ocampo wrote on the page for the petition, which already has more than 4,000 of its 5,000 required signatures.

Ocampo added that Selena’s reputation as a role model and pioneering Latin musician fits nicely with Mattel’s trend of modeling dolls after celebrity influencers. Past dolls have shared the likeness of Ava DuVernay, Zendaya, Beyoncé, and other champions of diversity in entertainment.

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Another area where consumers say Barbie, whom Mattel has always advertised as a “fashion doll,” has failed is in representing religious diversity.

Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old Muslim woman from Nigeria, recently told Mic that she found this most apparent on the Barbie Style Instagram account, where a classic—tall, skinny, and blond—Barbie flaunts her most stylish garb.

But Barbie’s vast wardrobe has yet to include the modest hijabs and abayas traditionally worn by Muslim women.

To fill this void, Adam makes her own doll-size articles of clothing inspired by Muslim fashion bloggers Leena Asad and Habiba Da Sliva and modeled by a classic Barbie doll. Hijarbie, as Adam calls her, has amassed an Instagram following of more than 13,000 people interested in seeing a new side to the tiny fashionista.

“Instead of dressing up her dolls in clothes she wouldn’t wear, hijabifying it will create a sense of belonging and hopefully make a positive impact,” Adam told Mic. She is working on building a website where she will sell her “mini hijab fashion” to other girls who want modestly dressed dolls that reflect Muslim culture.

“This is about having an alternative and creating an awareness of having toys that adopt your religion and culture and in your own likeness, which, at the end of the day, leads to an improvement in self-esteem,” Adam told Mic.