Barbie makeover by Mattel – reflecting diversity or just a way to boost sales?

New Barbie makeover from Mattel

So today I found out about Mattel’s Barbie makeover. Barbie’s unrealistic figure has been a cause of concern to women for years, not just mothers of their own sons and daughters who might play with Barbie dolls, but any woman disappointed in Mattel for presenting such a dangerous body shape as some kind of feminine ‘ideal’. It wasn’t just dangerous to the young girls playing with Barbie dolls who might think the stick-skinny figure is the only acceptable norm, or boys being conditioned to think that this figure is the only acceptable ‘attractive’ woman shape – it was an insult to women everywhere.

Barbie dolls

There are those who could argue that Cabbage Patch Dolls don’t resemble real babies or people either, and that’s not insulting. After all, they’re only toys. Just dolls. However, I would counter that Barbie dolls were held up for decades as being the realistic ‘young lady doll’, wanted by millions of (mainly) little girls who would dress them, brush their hair and could easily be conditioned into thinking that look is the look of choice when they get older.

Human Barbie

It’s impossible of course – most people realise that if you had the original Barbie doll proportions, you’d not only look extremely strange with legs far too long for your body (as in, far too long for you to be able to stand or walk), you’d also probably require some kind of life saving surgery as your body just wouldn’t work that well. Where would all your internal organs go? Let’s not even talk about the lack of toileting ability. That hasn’t stopped some women from doing their utmost to achieve the Barbie doll look, with media ‘celebs’ such as Valeria Lukyanova aka Human Barbie causing an outrage with her Breatharian ‘air diet’ (and not just a little surgery) leading to undeniable Barbie-esque features and physique.

Original Barbie Doll

Quite aside from the ridiculous proportions of ‘old skool’ Barbie, there’s the lack of diversity. Original Barbie doll has all the makings of a Donald Trump wet dream. Whiter than white, blue eyes, long blonde hair. Why not represent other ethnicities, Mattel? We reached the millennium and still no other Barbie (or friends) representation than white girl.

Then there are the Barbie doll type aspirations. If I had to pen Barbie’s life goals, I would imagine that they’d include always having her nails manicured and polished and never being seen without the right shoes and accessories. It’s hardly the height of ambition for young girls really, is it. Or is that the limit of success for women? To be a perfectly preened ornament on a suitable ‘Ken’s’ arm?

So Mattel have changed Barbie. Now, instead of just one type of Barbie – the one we all recognize, whiter than white, blonde hair, body that looks like it’s been through a spaghetti making machine – there are various Barbies for children (and adults, if you like – let’s be inclusive) to play with. The new range is called the Barbie Fashionistas line.

Mattel executive Evelyn Mazzocco said in a statement:

“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.”

Barbie makeover diverse Barbie dolls 2016

The official spiel says that the new Barbie Fashionistas line will feature:

  • 33 new dolls
  • 30 hair colours
  • 24 hairstyles
  • 22 eye colours
  • 14 face shapes
  • 7 skin tones
  • 4 body shapes – original, plus tall, curvy and petite

Although I welcome this change by Mattel, one can’t help being a little cynical about why they’re suddenly changing Barbie after all this time. I mean, we’ve all been complaining about the various ridiculous facets of Barbie for years. Decades, even.

So I wonder, is this new Barbie Fashionistas line really a response to demands to diversify Barbie and give children a more realistic ‘lifelike’ doll figure to play with? Or is it really because sales of the original Barbie doll have fallen thanks to more inclusive competitors such as the ‘Toys Like Me’ dolls from Makie, the rising popularity of Lego Friends and various superheroes, and even the depth of characters from Disney movies such as Brave and Frozen?

It’s a clever move by Mattel to both pacify their opposers’ demands to diversify the range and change Barbie into a more realistic and real-woman representative doll (or range), as well as bringing this toy into the 21st century. Finally.

One final question: When will Ken finally reveal and accept his Dad bod?




  1. Even as a curvy girl, I was still most excited by the ones with fun hair. I coloured my barbies hair blue routinely with a marker when I was young.

Please share your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.