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Happy Birthday, Barbie! A Look Back at Her Famous Faces
Barbie: The Original Teenage Fashion Model
Modeled after a German comic character, the original Barbie doll debuted at the New York Toy Fair in 1959. Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, after the teenage daughter of Mattel cofounders Ruth and Elliot Handler. The original Barbie dolls sold for $3; they can now fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Luckily, modern reproductions are available, featuring Barbie’s trademark black-and-white bathing suit and black evening gown.
The introduction of the first Malibu Barbie in 1971 was what cemented Barbie’s image as a sun-loving California girl. The doll was an instant success; she came with an iconic blue swimsuit and long blonde hair, although subsequent reissues added more accessories, such as sunglasses. The version of Malibu Barbie sold in 2002 came with a bottle of sunscreen.
_Photo source: Barbieimages.com
African American Barbie
Barbie’s diverse circle of friends has included African American Christie since 1968, but it wasn’t until 1980 that Mattel produced the first nonwhite doll to be considered an official Barbie. Since then, Barbie dolls have been produced in dozens of ethnicities.
_Photo source: Barbieimages.com
Barbie and the Rockers
One of Barbie’s most ’80s-tastic identities was a big-haired, neon-wearing rock star. Along with her friends Dana, Derek, Dee-Dee, Diva—and, of course, Ken—her band the Rockers starred in two direct-to-DVD movies and had their own stage playset. The doll herself came with a cassette tape featuring four singles. _Photo source: Barbieimages.com
Barbie Dolls of the World
The Dolls of the World line of Barbies is one of the most enduringly popular. Each doll is outfitted in the traditional dress of a particular country, in order to promote diversity and cross-cultural appreciation. Many Dolls of the World have become sought-after collectors’ items.
Totally Hair Barbie
Ninety percent of girls aged three to ten own at least one Barbie doll, and in the ’90s, this was the one to have: with hair down to her feet and her own bottle of Dep hair gel, Totally Hair Barbie was the bestselling Barbie doll in history. From the time she debuted in 1992, she sold more than ten million units.
Teen Talk Barbie
Barbie’s long life has not been without controversy. In 1992, Teen Talk Barbie was programmed to “speak” a few teen-oriented phrases. Along with phrases like “I love shopping!” some of the dolls said, “Math class is tough!” The phrase was thought to be offensive to women and a bad influence on young girls, and the dolls were replaced.
A Healthier Barbie
One of the enduring criticisms of Barbie was that her bodily proportions were wildly unrealistic, and not a good example for young girls. It was estimated that if Barbie were a real woman, she would be five feet, nine inches tall, and have measurements of 36-18-33; her lack of body fat would make her incapable of menstruation, and she would be so top-heavy that she would fall over. In 1997, the doll was redesigned to give her a slightly more human waist-to-hip ratio, along with a belly button.
_Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons
Barbie versions of characters from television shows or films have always been popular. This set depicts Bella and Edward from the Twilight movies.
Computer Engineer Barbie
Barbie has had 126 different careers in her lifetime, including flight attendant, astronaut, presidential candidate, “pet vet,” “newborn baby doctor,” and UNICEF ambassador. In 2010, she became a computer engineer, with a look and accessories approved by the Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering. Barbie’s next vocation, scheduled to debut in 2011, is architecture.