1. People & Relationships
Send to a Friend via Email

Barbie Doll Profile: What's Barbie really like?

By

Barbie Doll Profile: What's Barbie really like? Photo: Ian Waldie/Getty

How the Barbie doll began:

Barbie was never really born, of course, she sprang to life as a teenage fashion model on March 9, 1959, when inventor and Mattel toy company co-founder Ruth Mosko Handler introduced Barbie dolls to the world at the American Toy Fair in New York City.

Soon after, Mattel began selling the Barbie doll in stores and advertising Barbie on television. Mattel was the first company to market toys directly to kids by sponsoring children’s television programs with ads targeted to young consumers.

How and why the Barbie doll was created:

Feminists have criticized the Barbie doll for promoting an unrealistic body ideal for women and potentially damaging the self-image of young girls. Ruth Handler, the Barbie doll inventor, said she conceived the Barbie doll as a way to help girls imagine their futures as adult women and to bolster their self-image.

"I believed it was important to a little girl's self-esteem to play with a doll that has breasts," Handler said.

Considering her stated goal, it seems ironic that Handler modeled her Barbie doll after Lilli, a sex toy for men, which she had seen during a trip to Germany.

Growing up Barbie:

According to her official biography, Barbie grew up in Willows, Wisconsin where she attended Willows High School. She has four sisters: Skipper, introduced in 1964, Stacie (1992), Kelly (1995), and Krissy (also 1995), and a brother named Todd (1966). Barbie’s parents, George and Margaret, appeared in a series of Barbie books published a few years after Barbie made her debut but they were not released as dolls.

Barbie loves animals. Her first pet was a horse named Dancer; since then she’s had 49 more pets including dogs, cats, ponies, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a panda, a lion cub, a giraffe, a zebra, and other horses.

How the Barbie doll got her name:

Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. Inventor Ruth Handler named the doll Barbie after her 15-year-old daughter, Barbara.

Handler’s daughter also helped inspire the idea for the Barbie doll, because Handler had noticed that as a young girl Barbara often chose to play with adult paper dolls instead of the baby dolls that were popular toys for girls after World War II.

Working Barbie:

Barbie has an impressive resumé.

In her first 50 years, Barbie held more than 100 jobs. After her debut as a fashion model, Barbie went on to become an astronaut, compete as an Olympic athlete (in both gymnastics and swimming), and run for president (four times, always as an independent) on a platform of “opportunities for girls, educational excellence and animal rights.”

Barbie has been a rock star, a doctor and a paleontologist; a police officer, a fire fighter, and a circus performer. She has been a cowgirl, a NASCAR driver and an American Idol Winner.

It seems there is nothing Barbie can’t do.

Romantic Barbie:

Barbie met Ken two years after she made her own phenomenal debut. Ken and Barbie never married, but they were together for 43 years until February 12, 2004, when Mattel announced that the all-American couple was breaking up.

There were rumors that Barbie had dumped Ken for Blaine, a hot Australian surfer with blond hair and bendable knees, or that Ken was gay and had finally decided to come out of the Dream House closet. Despite all the fan and media speculation, however, two years later (in 2006) Ken and Barbie reunited. Now they appear to be just friends, but rumors are flying that Ken is pining for the past.

Fashion Barbie:

It takes about 100 people—including designers, seamstresses, pattern makers and stylists—to create each Barbie “look.” Each new Barbie costume starts with sketches and is created in muslin before the pattern is made. Barbie designs must be precise—being off by even a fraction of an inch is a disaster. Barbie’s accessories, including shoes and jewelry, are sculpted in wax before being approved for production.

Despite the fact that 70 famous designers have outfitted her, including Versace, Gucci, Calvin Klein and Galliano, Barbie makes mistakes. Top vote-getter for tastelessness? Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie.

Multicultural Barbie:

If you think of the Barbie doll as a little slice of white bread from the American suburbs, think again.

Barbie first went international in 1961, entering Europe with an Italian doll, the first non-American Barbie. Since then, the Barbie doll has adopted dozens of different nationalities and is now sold in 150 countries worldwide. When the Berlin Wall was torn down, Mattel even introduced Freundschaft (Friendship) Barbie to commemorate the event.

Mattel introduced the first black and Hispanic Barbie dolls in 1980.

Barbie Doll Trivia:

According to Mattel…

  • Since the Barbie doll was introduced, more than 105 million yards of fabric have been used to create her clothes, making Mattel one of the world’s largest apparel manufacturers.
  • Mattel estimates that 1 billion Barbie doll fashions have been created over the years.
  • It takes up to three hours to paint Barbie’s face. Her favorite shade of eyeshadow is brown.
  • Barbie is the largest selling doll in the U.S., and the largest selling toy worldwide.
  • In 1959, the first Barbie doll cost $3. Today, that same Barbie doll, in mint condition, is estimated to bring in more than $27,000.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.