The world’s most famous doll, Barbie, is making headlines again today after toy manufacturer Mattel announced that it would be diversifying its selection of Barbie body types to include petite, tall and curvy.
It’s not the first time that someone has attempted to reinvigorate the tiny plastic representation of womanhood for the children that play with her though.
There have actually been numerous attempts throughout the years (some trademark authorised and some not) to make the tiny doll more inclusive. Here are some of those many incarnations:
1. Feral Cheryl
The handmade “simply living, eco-feminist doll” hails from the north coast of NSW where her creator Lee Duncan first started selling her at local markets 20 years ago before she was discovered by the media and went on to gain a cult following.
Featuring dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings and a “map of Tasmania,” Duncan created an initial run of only 1000 of her anti-Barbie dolls, before announcing a re-launch in 2014, allowing customers from around the world to purchase the individually customised dolls for $75 each via her website.
Duncan writes on her site: “Feral Cheryl has no fashion wardrobe, no sports car or beauty salon, no mansion or boutique. Her only accessory is a hand-made bag of herbs, and a sense of humour.”
Lammily was hailed as the first ‘Normal Barbie’ when she debuted in 2014 after a successful crowdfunding campaign raised over half a million dollars towards the manufacture of a doll based on the actual measurements of an average American 19-year-old woman.
Designer Nickolay Lam created her with features including flat feet, cellulite and a shorter height and wider waist than Barbie. She also came with optional stick-on stretch marks, moles, scars and pimples.
“I want to show that average is beautiful,” Lamm said on the doll’s website.
3. Menstrual Barbie
Actually just another incarnation of Lammily, the ‘Period Party’ package saw the doll make headlines again in 2015 when a selection of coloured pads were released to help educate young girls about the “perfectly healthy natural process” according to the website.
“Let’s start an open and positive conversation about our periods…” it says on the website, where you can purchase the period party pack for $10.
4. Wheelchair Barbie
An official offering from Mattel, ‘Share a Smile Becky’ aimed to be inclusive of disabled kids by featuring the famous doll in a wheelchair. The only problem? As uncovered by a 17-year-old high school student with cerebral palsy, the chair didn’t fit in the lift of Barbie’s Dream House.
5. Oreo Fun Barbie
Mattel’s attempt to be more inclusive backfired when they partnered with the brand Nabisco to promote their famous Oreo Cookies in 1997. They were widely censured for the black version of the doll with critics claiming that ‘Oreo’ is a derogatory term used to describe a black as ‘black on the outside but white on the inside’. The design was recalled after poor sales, but is now heavily sought after as a collector’s item.
6. Pregnant Barbie
Another short lived official release from Mattel was Midge, Barbie’s pregnant best friend, who came with a detachable tummy featuring a baby inside. While it was intended as a positive thing to teach kids about the birds and the bees, Midge infuriated parents who claimed that she was a bad example for young girls as she was unwed and too young to have a baby.
7. Hijab Barbie
Not an official Mattel model, but a best-seller in the Middle-East and North Africa, Fulla features darker skin and comes with more modest clothing and hijabs, giving girls in Islamic countries a chance to play with a doll that looks more like them and wears the same fashion trends as them.
8. Drag Queen Barbie
While she was never officially billed as drag queen by Mattel when they released her in 2012, Blond Diamond Barbie was intended to blur the gender lines. Co-designed by cross-dressing fashion designer Phillippe Blond (one half of New York fashion designer duo The Blonds), the doll’s body wasn’t modeled after a male Ken Doll, but rather was still very feminine but with heavy make-up and a glamorous outfit inspired by Blond.
The dark-skinned dreadlocked doll modeled after Disney pop idol Zendaya was hailed as a role model for young girls of all skin colours when she was released last year.
“When I was little I couldn't find a Barbie that looked like me,”Zendaya said in an Instagram post at the time.
“My...how times have changed. Thank you @barbie for this honor and for allowing me to be apart of your diversification and expansion of the definition of beauty. Can't wait to keep doing amazing things with you.”
10. Koori Barbie
Sydney-based Koori woman Lorna Munro began creating Koori and Murri versions of Barbie to combat a lack of representation for young Indigenous girls.
She told Buzzfeed in October "I thought it would be great to do a Koori and Murri version of these dolls. It’s just really important for young Aboriginal girls to have something that reflects them, something that they look like.
11. Tree Change Dolls
Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh made headlines around the world for these earthy dolls which are in fact “rescue” dolls sourced from op-shops that originally had an earlier life as the heavily-made Bratz dolls. Singh made global headlines last year for her rehabilitated version of the dolls that saw her give them “make-unders” - stripping back their make-up and dressing them in hand-made clothes to give them a more natural look for girls to aspire to.
With a flat chest, sturdy legs and clothes that are more practical than sexy, the Lottie doll emerged in 2012 as a ‘Tween’ doll, designed to give girls a doll that looked like them, rather than the more sexualised models such as Barbie and Bratz dolls.
13. Hipster Barbie
While this famous Instagram incarnation of Barbie, might not exactly be the best representation of diversity, the creator of the @socalitybarbie account, Darby Cisneros did ask her 1.3million to question standard representations of female beauty.
By poking fun at ridiculous aspirational Instagram trends, Cisneros said at the end of her viral photo project that she’d “open[ed] the door to a lot of great discussions like: how we choose to present ourselves online, the insane lengths many of us go to to create the perfect Instagram life, and calling into question our authenticity and motives.”