Mattel, Inc. Barbies and Black Beauty
NATIONAL- In 1959, Mattel, Inc. launched a fashion doll that is now famously known as Barbie. It is one of the most successful toy lines ever but the plastic doll has also faced a great deal of scrutiny. The main complaint is that Barbie promotes a standard of beauty that most females do not fit into; especially African American girls.
Many people would argue that Barbie dolls do not have a profound affect on their young owners’ self image or view on beauty, but Karren Byrd is one person who vehemently disagrees with this sentiment. Byrd creates “Natural Beautiful Hair Dolls” that accurately represent the beauty of African American women. Her line of dolls sport natural hairstyles including afros, twists and locs. I got an opportunity to pick Ms. Byrd’s brain about her childhood and her beautiful creations.
“As a child, I did play with African American dolls. I remembered thinking that they dolls where beautiful – but that they did not look like me. Their features and hair were completely different. So as a child, I had this warped idea that my beauty wasn’t enough. That I was supposed to somehow look like the dolls I played with. And because I didn’t – that maybe I was not as beautiful as I wanted or should be,” she said.
As a child, Byrd had always wanted to have a doll that looked like her. She wanted a doll that had her features and hair like hers. And she never saw that as a child. So, as an adult, it has gotten better, but often when an ethnic doll comes out, it sells out quickly and is no longer available to shoppers. So we are once again, left with the option of getting a doll that has non-ethnic features with long straight hair. Our daughters and our community should have dolls, books and images in the media that represent our beauty just as readily as these things are available to non-ethnic cultures.
According to Byrd, it is very important that little girls have dolls that look like them. “We can tell our children how beautiful they are, but if they have dolls that don’t look like them, and are bombarded by images of a different kind of beauty in the media, then they will be confused about what beauty is. Having an ethnic doll that looks like them reaffirms that they are beautiful. That their features and hair are indeed beautiful,” she stated.
Byrd’s inspiration for creating her Natural Hair Doll Project comes from several places. She has a natural hair blog and website entitled, Naturally Beautiful Hair. Over the years she has shared thousands of photos of naturally beautiful ethnic women. She also sees girls and women in her community who have beautiful hairstyles.
For the mothers who disagree that their daughters should have dolls that look like them are advised by Byrd to reevaluate their way of thinking. “A child is exposed to so many images around that are not always supportive of their own self esteem. It is important that we surround our children with images, dolls, toys, books and other things that continue to show them that they do have beautiful hair, skin, eyes and hair. And that they don’t have to change who they are to fit into someone else’s ideal standard of beauty,” she said.
If you are interested in checking out some of Karren’s creations, visit www.stylishbella.com.