Home > Beautifully Blended, Does anybody look like me?, reflections on race > The “authentic” Black Barbie…

The “authentic” Black Barbie…

Cali Girl & Friends

OK, I know, I know.  I used the word AUTHENTIC and BARBIE in the same sentence.

Stop laughing.

Breathe.

Breathe again.

I wish that I could be as excited about the So In Style Barbie line as I was about the Cali dolls. And I might be a little more generous in my critique if they weren’t being billed as “authentic” representations of the African American community and culture.

Now we have a new line of Black Barbies, the So In Style African American Barbie dolls. I’ll be the first to admit that the original blonde Barbie is no more an authentic representation of white women than these dolls are… but I can’t remember in my lifetime ever hearing anyone, white, black, or pink with purple polka dots, assert that she was authentic.

So In Style Barbies

Not one of the BFF’s have a hairstyle that doesn’t scream weave, relaxer or hot comb. The only doll that has anything resembling “authentic” African hair is supposedly sporting Afro puffs, but the texture and length of her hair make them pony/pig tails, not puffs. The doll that comes closest to being authentic in appearance also has what seems to be the most ethnic name, but to me it just smacks of too many stereotypes. Rather than a name that originates from an African language and would be an accurate reflection of a culture, we have Trichelle, which looks like a bastardized spelling of the Italian name Trishelle at best. And if you dare to Google either spelling… well, let’s just say that the reality show… ummm… lady (white, btw) that dominates most of the results is probably the last person in the world a girls’ role model should be named after.

The Aqua Curl technology? Does this come with a hot comb? Can white Barbie get this too? Oh wait… Barbie must have had hot rollers & Aqua Net. Whatever. Like I don’t have enough of a battle explaining to my girls what it would take to straighten their hair and how much the process would damage it.

And don’t get me started on the little sisters. Where are the twists, cornrows, braids, beads, barrettes & snaps that are worn by this age group? Again, not one head that hasn’t been heat treated or chemically processed and who doesn‘t have hair down to the middle of her back. This isn’t authentic. It’s not accurate. At least not where I live. I realize Phoenix is no Chi-town, but not one of the black women I know, not even those who wear extensions or straighten their own hair would relax hair on a preschool age child or put a waist length weave in her head, and I can‘t think of a time where I saw one of my children‘s peers in daycare, preschool, or elementary school sporting hair that looks like this.

Are the full lips and broader noses a step in the right direction? Yeah… but it‘s a small step, not a giant leap. I’ve seen several blogs where Mattel is given an A for effort… I think the “A” should be given for the fact that while I think these dolls still adhere to a very white standard of beauty, they are the vision & creation of an African American woman… and THAT is empowering. But while myself and other moms may appreciate this nuance, the young girls of this demographic will not. They’re going to see another stick thin doll with anorexic thighs and press & curl hair.

 Now, if you don’t get what the big deal is about the hair, or you think it’s tired and don’t understand why I keep harping on it…  plan on seeing Good Hair, a documentary featuring Chris Rock next month.

Or, try to catch the rerun of Chris’ appearance on Oprah.

recommended reading:
I’m saving my cheers for new, “authentic” black Barbie | Anti-Racist Parent – for parents committed to raising children with an anti-racist outlook.

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  1. barbie
    October 1, 2009 at 11:16 PM

    I agree with most of your comments, but I resent your claim that black barbies with long hair aren’t authentic. I am black and have the kind of hair you describe (my own, not a weave.) One of my black relatives had hair down to her knees. Black women can have long hair just as women of other races can.

    • October 2, 2009 at 5:54 AM

      Barbie, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right and I got so busy climbing up on a soapbox (or two… maybe even three) that I failed to acknowledge that black hair is not all the same… thick, thin, curly, kinky, straight, short, long and many lengths in between. It’s not that a Black barbie with straight hair can’t be authentic… it’s that a LINE of dolls being billed as an accurate representation of black women misses the mark when all three of them have butt length hair goes from loosely curled to stick straight with a spritz of water.

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