Mattel celebrates the 40th Anniversary of The Original Black Barbie.
Since 1960, Mattel has created Black dolls. But, it wasn’t until the 1980s that a Black doll was actually given the name ‘Barbie.’ According to Lifestyle Maven, “Previously, those Mattel dolls with their melanin poppin’ were just friends of Barbie, like Christie and Francie.”
The original Black Barbie was designed by a Black woman named Kitty Black Perkins, and now Bill Greening has designed the 40th Anniversary of the First Black Barbie Doll, in honor of Perkins, his friend and mentor.
When initially released, the Black Barbie Doll had an afro and dark skin. In an interview, Perkins stated:
“I wanted her to reflect what the [B]lack culture was, and what was familiar to our [B]lack collectors and children that actually played with Barbie dolls.”
She also stated her inspiration came from Diana Ross and The Supremes. “I was just in awe of the way they dressed – the dignity, the fashion, and everything that they would wear was just special to me. If it’s not something that I would wear, then I don’t think it would be something the children would like, and something the Afro-American parents would embrace.”
Perkins didn’t expect for the doll to be as huge of a hit as it was. “I had no idea it was going to be as groundbreaking as it is now, but if you look at the history of Barbie, the reason Barbie is number one is because she was the very first of her kind. When we did Black Barbie, she too became the very first of her kind.”
The 40th Anniversary First Black Barbie Doll is wearing a red trumpet dress and a puff ponytail with a gold clutch, paired with gold hoop earrings. Greening said, ““We didn’t want to do another reproduction, since we had already been there and done that. So it felt like this was a good time to pay tribute to the original design but with an updated look to it. And we wanted to make sure that the key elements of the original Black Barbie were in the new design, paying homage to Kitty’s original design inspiration.”
In 2020, there is a plethora of Black Dolls created by small business owners. Luckily, while still a task, we have more representation than ever.