I wasn’t a Barbie girl growing up. I was friends with quite a few as a child. They would always want to play with their Barbie mansions when I went over, and I would wrinkle my nose and suggest something else.
Not because I was some kind of early-blooming feminist, but mostly because Barbie’s shoes never stayed on and that annoyed me. I also think, though, it was because I didn’t have Barbies at home. She wasn’t a toy I was forbidden from. I can’t remember my parents speaking ill of her, but they never encouraged me to play with her, either. I kinda got the idea that they thought Barbie was a little silly.
And to be totally honest, that’s the attitude I’ve taken when it comes to Barbie and my own daughter. It’s just not something I wanted to push. She never asked, and I never bought.
And then Leyna started really getting into imaginative play. She fell in love with the Monster High dolls we got for a campaign, and was straight up sad we couldn’t bring the massive MH Deluxe Playset with us on the RV. (It would have taken up nearly all her floorspace.) We did agree to her bringing a few of her favorite dolls, though.
Earlier this year, we stopped to visit my dad and step-mom as we made our way through New Mexico. Leyna found my step-mom’s stash of Barbies and Ken dolls she kept for the grandkids, and played for hours. When thinking what to put in her Easter basket that would actually see some use and not take up a lot of space, I decided to get a Barbie Fashionista doll – one with a “curvy” body and a lavender bun.
When they announced those curvy bodies on Jan 28, 2016, I took notice. It was a HUGE deal. That was not anything I really expected from this brand, and it pleasantly surprised me. It definitely warmed me to the idea of buying my own daughter a Barbie. While I was thrilled to give Leyna a Barbie with a more realistic body, I think she was mostly excited that her doll had purple hair.
Side note: The Hulu documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie is INCREDIBLE and all about this massive risk Barbie took to introduce body diversity to their dolls. 110% recommend watching.
So fast forward, it’s like a couple weeks after Easter, Leyna loves her “Barbie with the purple hair” and I get an email from one of my personal heros- Jess Weiner– asking if I’d like to be on the Barbie Advisory Council for 2018. I hadn’t even posted about Leyna’s new Barbie. It was bananas how the universe was aligning. I said yes. Had they asked me just a few months before, I would have probably turned them down because I’d only ever work with a brand in that capacity if I genuinely used or engaged with them. But now, I/we suddenly did.
This is where I pause to say, yes, I’m a paid member of the advisory board, but also, this isn’t a sponsored post. This isn’t a brand ambassadorship. I’m not required to write positively about them. What is SO bad ass is that my role is to give them totally open and honest feedback. And I had the incredible opportunity to do that back in May at the Mattel HQ.
Y’all, the members of our board (with careers in TV, education, science, politics, writing, and more) laid it all out during this full-day meeting. We discussed where the brand had been and where it’s going, and why it’s SO important for Barbie to keep evolving. I’m NDA-d beyond being able to say more than this: Barbie is up to some inspiring, progressive stuff that made many of us actually cry because of what a positive impact it could have on all children.
I believe the Barbie brand is already making many positive changes when it comes to embracing and celebrating diversity, and, you guys, have you SEEN the Barbie YouTube channel lately?? Check out the Barbie VLOGS playlist and tell me that is not AMAZING, highly thought out and emotionally intelligent. What other toy brand is doing this?!
I realize it’s coming up on that time of year when we start to think about what makes the cut for holiday gifts for our kids, and I can tell you that last Christmas, I don’t think I would have considered adding anything Barbie to Leyna’s list. But this year? HECK YEAH. I’m here for it.
Just probably not for this Dreamhouse.
I am a paid member of the 2018 Barbie Advisory Council, but all opinions stated here are my own, and I am not being compensated for this post.