Barbie turns 60 this week -- and despite having literally hundreds of careers over the years, there’s no signs of retirement for Mattel’s best-selling toy.
The toy institution has undergone an accelerated progressive makeover in the past few years, following decades of headline-making controversies. Since its debut in 1959, Mattel has been repeatedly cited for the lack of inclusion and diversity in their Barbie collections. Early attempts to remedy this were even met with their own criticisms, often times regarding the dolls’ inaccurate representations for people of color. As recently as the early ‘90s, the company was also facing backlash for its Teen Talk Barbie, which uttered the now-infamous phrase, “Math class is tough.”
Recently, the company has pushed initiatives to properly respond to these criticisms and Hollywood has taken note. Mattel has produced multiple collections dedicated to representing different body types and empowering role models, such has their Inspiring Women™ series that features dolls modeled after the likes of Amelia Earhart and Katherine Johnson. While Barbie has been emulating pop culture since the Twiggy doll back in the ‘60s, there’s been a steady production of celebrity-inspired dolls over the past 20 years. The toy giant’s new cultural strides have opened the door for Hollywood to embrace Barbie and has led to multiple collaborations with our favorite stars. In addition, Margot Robbie is slated to portray the doll in an upcoming live-action movie.
Mattel is commemorating the anniversary with a pop-up art installation in New York City, along with a variety of new doll announcements this week, including one for Black-ish star Yara Shahidi.
I’m honored to be repping all the young ones as a Barbie Role Model☀️Let’s continue to inspire the next generation and each other⭐️ We need your voices and are watching you all Blossom and shine! #YouCanBeAnything #Barbie60 #barbie
A post shared by Yara (يارا) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Mar 6, 2019 at 7:19am PST
To celebrate the brand’s milestone, we’re looking back at just a handful of our favorite pop culture-inspired Barbies:
1997: Marilyn Monroe
Monroe has had multiple Barbies modeled after her over the years, including dolls inspired by her roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven-Year Itch, shown above. Other special collections have dolls modeled after Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
2002: Elvis Presley
Along with Presley, fellow music legends Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra and Cher have all received their own dolls.
Before Beyoncé and JAY-Z dressed up as Barbie and Ken for Halloween, Destiny’s Child was immortalized with dolls of their own in 2005.
2005: American Idol
This was also the year Barbie became a contestant on American Idol.
2006: Hilary Duff
While legendary fashion companies like Givenchy and Bob Mackie have collaborated with Barbie, Hilary Duff also produced her own mini-line of clothes in 2006. Stripes. Tunic tops. Huge belts. This was, indeed, the mid-‘00s.
2013: Jennifer Lopez
Lopez had two different looks designed for her. One for her concert tours and another for the red carpet, shown above.
2014: Fifth Harmony
"We were screaming, we were crying... we've been playing with Barbies since we were little, " Normani Kordei told ET. "To actually see ourselves in doll form? It's just crazy."
2015 : The “Shero” campaign
At the 2015 Variety Power of Women Luncheon, Mattel announced its new “Shero” campaign, which included Barbie dolls with the likenesses of Ava DuVernay, Emmy Rossum, Trisha Yearwood and more. Within minutes of the company tweeting out a link where DuVernay’s could be purchased, the doll had sold out.
“I think it's a lot less about me and more about embracing a different kind of Barbie,” DuVernay told The Insider in 2015. “She's a filmmaker. She's calling, ‘Action!’ She's got her natural hair. She's different from what we usually see, so I think that's what people are rallying around.”
Ashley Graham, Gabby Douglas, Misty Copeland and Patty Jenkins are just a few of the women who were later given dolls in this line.
A post shared by Zendaya (@zendaya) on Sep 26, 2015 at 5:55pm PDT
"I’m honored because I didn’t decide what look this Barbie was gonna have," Zendaya told ET at the Barbie Rock 'N Royals Concert Experience in 2015. Zendaya’s Barbie was modeled after her much talked-about appearance at the Academy Awards earlier that year. "Barbie actually took the initiative to make it something that was an important moment for me and I think a lot of people out in the world."
2017: Gigi Hadid
A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on Feb 7, 2017 at 2:54pm PST
Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion collaborations include the wardrobe for her Barbie.
2018: The cast of A Wrinkle in Time
— A Wrinkle In Time (@WrinkleInTime) January 25, 2018
The cast of DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time could barely contain their excitement after it was announced Mattel had created Barbies inspired by their characters. Reese Witherspoon tweeted: "When a childhood dream comes to life! Excited to reveal my very own @Mattel doll based off of my Red-headed alter ego, Mrs. WhatsIt from #WrinkleInTime!! 💫⭐️✨ #DreamComeTrue.”
TBD?: Kim Kardashian West
Have the best story about this look! I had a Barbie deal & she was going 2 wear this exact look! Then the deal got cancelled, the Kim K Barbie would no longer B produced. Kanye knew how sad I was, called Mattel & made all my dreams come true by having my prototype made just 4 me! https://t.co/F1r2Ai8WWC
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 11, 2019
The truly rare, unattainable Barbie collector’s item currently resides in the House of Kards.
"Have the best story about this look!" Kardashian tweeted earlier this year. A former Barbie magazine fashion model herself, she commented on a couple of photos that reminded her of the time she nearly joined the Mattel family. "I had a Barbie deal & she was going 2 wear this exact look! Then the deal got cancelled, the Kim K Barbie would no longer B produced. Kanye knew how sad I was, called Mattel & made all my dreams come true by having my prototype made just 4 me!"
For more on the upcoming live-action Barbie movie, see the video below: