*Image rights: Mattel
When I was a little girl my favourite toy was… the one and only Barbie. My sister loved playing with Baby Born and baby stuff but me, nah, I was all about the Barbie! Yep, I am most definitely a Barbie girl.
The first Barbie I remember getting for Christmas was ‘Barbie Bride’ that came with a very special accessory: ‘Ken Groom’ – which remained the only Ken we ever had. Barbie Bride was white, blonde and had blue eyes. She was very skinny but very fortunate to have great boobs and a nice – but small – round bum. At the time I didn’t really think much about ‘body measures’ but looking back I must say ‘damn Bride, you’ve got it goin’ on!’.
I was a very fortunate child with extremely pampering grandparents, who helped me start my little Barbie collection, but I can remember as clear as water the day when I got my favourite (forever and) ever Barbie doll: it was Barbie Mermaid and she (yes, she, not it) was a brunette with brown eyes, just like me! Also, I’ll have you know that being a mermaid was my second option in case I couldn’t get into Fairy school, so in a way, she was me. I named her ‘Mafalda’ (it was my pseudonymous at the time).
Mafalda and I had the best of times together! She definitely had it going on – she was very independent, occasionally she would have a child but then would leave it with the nanny and go on amazing holidays – usually to Brazil. She had an on-and-off relationship with Ken, as he was obviously a cheater and she didn’t really need him. She was a grown-ass independent woman. She even cut her hair in a freaky way and was still gorgeous. Oh and several times she would wear my fav accessory: glasses (just like me). And she had the most amazing shoe collection, which BTW I have to add, I blame Mattel for my shoe addiction more than I do Carrie Bradshaw. Actually my first walk-in closet, owned by Mafalda, came years before Sex and the City, circa 1990s. Oh but how could Mafalda buy all these shoes? I am not sure, I can’t remember exactly what her job was, an entrepreneur of some kind, but she also skinned Ken for all his money. Word.
I never thought whether or not the fact that Mafalda also had a tiny waist, great boobs and a lovely behind, distorted or not my perception on what ‘body perfect is’. I’ve always been petite, and definitely never had Barbie measures, but I have always been small. I don’t like when I don’t feel comfortable in my body, when I don’t feel fit or that I can’t really get into my clothes (the worst!), but I never felt bad about having a much bigger bum, a larger waist line or smaller boobs than Mafalda… I don’t think I ever compared myself with Mafalda. What I do know, is that the fact that she was, like me, a brunette with brown eyes, made all the difference to me. So maybe if she was, as me, smaller than the other Barbie dolls I would have loved her even more (if possible).
Now I’ve always had it quite clear: I am a brunette, with brown eyes and I like it that way. But it’s disturbing to see some videos (I’ve recently seen one a friend shared on Facebook) of children pointing out which is the ‘good doll’ and the ‘bad doll’ based on colour, which is the right doll to play and the wrong doll to play – this is just purely scary! That goes on to a whole other level. I can honestly say I never felt that way about dolls, or people, and I am quite happy for that.
But now the tables turn: this week Mattel announced that Barbie is finally joining us all in the 21st century, adding a cultural diversity capable of giving Donald Trump a heart attack. There’s different body shapes (tall, curvy, petite), seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles. They say it’s meant to “represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them”; I say hallelujah!
One could say Mattel is a little late in the game, but being an eternal optimistic I say better late than never. And after all, Barbie is to dolls what Christian Louboutin is to red sole shoes: the one and only. Also they’re doing it quite cleverly – it’s not just about body shape, it’s about everything, about people with blue hair, pink hair, goths, nerds, models, scientists, everyone! Instead of screaming ‘this is perfect body’ or ‘this is real body’ – both slogans I absolutely detest – they’re giving young girls several options: to play with whichever doll they want to, to relate to whichever doll they want to, to be whoever they want to be and to embrace diversity. It is a case to say it was a much-needed-step from Mattel, one giant leap for little girls everywhere! I say Bravo, finally, well done, and can I play with Barbie dolls again, pretty please?
Once I grew up I gave most of my Barbie dolls away; the ones in good condition were given to children in need, schools, some kept for my cousins, and some (the broken ones) were thrown away (the horror!). But Mafalda – my strong, independent, shoe-loving Mafalda – is kept in a box, together with her favourite outfits, her favourite shoes and my diaries.