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Black Barbies

Using Toys to Send the Diversity Message in Vogue Italia's Black Issue

— July 21, 2009 — Social Good
When we look back on the events of 2009, we may remember two in particular: Black Barbie modeling the latest fashions in Vogue Italia, and the first-ever line of African-American Barbie dolls.

July marks the anniversary edition of Vogue Italia’s Black Issue, which features Black Barbie in a full, high-fashion editorial spread. As the magazine hits newsstands, doll-fanatics everywhere are excitedly anticipating the fall launch of Mattel’s So In Style dolls, which are designed with more authentic African-American features including fuller lips, a wider nose, and curly hair.

Unlike the goal of Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, whose vision was to emphasize the importance of diversity in fashion, the So In Style dolls center on a decidedly more wholesome theme: mentoring.

The collection’s accompanying storyline goes something like this: Barbie’s African-American friend, Grace, moves to Chicago, where she befriends two other African-American girls, Trichelle and Kara. Each begins to mentor a younger girl – the little “sis” dolls – bringing the entire collection to six dolls.

Creator of the So In Style dolls, Stacey McBride-Irby makes her efforts clear:

I want to bring inspirational role models to a new generation of little girls.