The Barbie movie is a bonafide mega-hit, raking in $162 million in gross sales over its opening weekend—the biggest movie premiere of the year so far. Everything’s been coming up dreamhouses and Malibu corvettes for Barbie since 1958. But it would take nearly a decade from the iconic plastic doll’s debut for the world to experience the first Black Barbie design.
While Christie is often considered the figure to come out of Mattel with a darker skin tone, the company released Barbie’s friend Francie in 1967, before Christie would arrive on the scene and change the face of the doll brand forever. Here, EBONY chronicles some of the most iconic Black Barbies and collections over the past five decades.
Mattel released a doll design with brown skin and short curled hair in 1968. Billed as Barbie’s friend and available as a talking version, Christie is often considered Mattel’s first Barbie of color. The Christie doll was manufactured from 1968 to 1972.
In 1969, Mattel released “Julia,” a Barbie based on Diahann Carroll‘s title character on the 1968 TV series of the same name. This was the first weekly series to star an African American woman in a professional, non-stereotypical role, as Julia was a nurse.
With the tagline, “She’s Black. She’s beautiful. She’s dynamite,” the first Black doll with the Barbie moniker made her debut on toy shelves. Created in 1979 and released a year later, this Barbie had short, curly black hair that was a popular style in the eighties.
“Totally Hair Barbie”
“Totally Hair” Barbie, released in 1992, had hair that reached her ankles. Dressed in a brightly-colored geometric print mini-dress, a style popularized in the nineties, she sold more than 10 million dolls worldwide and became of the highest-selling Barbies of all time.
“Dolls of the World” Collection
Mattel created its “Dolls of the World” Collection, which featured dolls dressed in traditional attrire from other countries. Kenyan Barbie made her debut in 1993 in clothing inspired by traditional Maasai tribal attire.
Other dolls included in the collection included South African Barbie, Nigerian Barbie and Ghanaian Barbie, released in 1996. She wears an authentically styled tunic dress made from Kente cloth.
Celebrity “Destiny’s Child Barbie”
Throughout the decades, Mattel has made celebrity-inspired Barbies. In 2005 they immortalized Destiny’s Child, ranked by Billboard as one of the greatest musical trios of all time. It features Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in shimmery gowns. Other celebrity Barbies include Diana Ross, Nicki Minaj and Brandy.
Role Models, “Yara Shahidi”
Since 2015, Barbie has been on a mission to honor diverse role models. In 2019, South African singer/songwriter Lira (Lerato Molapo), tennis great Naomi Osaka, model and activist Adwoa Aboah and actress and activist Yara Shahidi all saw themselves replicated in 11.5 inches of plastic.
Barbiestyle x Shiona Turini
Fashion consultant and costume designer Shiona Turini created a collection for Mattel in 2020 that celebrated diversity. The four-style collection features 10 models with different skin tones and sizes, including a doll in a wheelchair, in contemporary styles. One of the platforms paid homage to the original Black Barbie.
“President Barbie” (2023)
Mattel has released in new President Barbie for 2023! Dressed in a pink and gold ballgown, she pays homage to EBONY July cover girl Issa Rae‘s role in the Barbie film.
See a full collection of Barbie dolls at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
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