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Life in plastic remains fantastic as Barbie turns 60

First unveiled at the New York Toy Fair in 1959 in her black and white-striped swimsuit, Barbie was named after creator Ruth Handler’s daughter, Barbara.

Barbie was joined by boyfriend Ken in 1961 and has had over 200 careers including astronaut, surgeon and robotics engineer.

“Barbie has stood the test of time because she is timeless and timely,” said Lisa McKnight, Barbie’s Senior Vice President and General Manager recently.

“She is always connecting to culture. She is reflecting what girls see around them. She is a positive role model and she is a source of inspiration.”

To celebrate Barbie’s diamond anniversary, Mattel is launching special edition dolls, including one called Proudly Pink that wears Barbie’s signature colour of pink from head to toe.

McKnight said the company has always been proud to inspire girls. It created an Astronaut Barbie doll in 1965, four years before man landed on the Moon.

“Barbie was also a surgeon in the 1970s, a time when women were not necessarily in the operating room, ” she said.

Nowadays, Barbie reflects many career roles, including in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field, such as the 2018 Robotics Engineer doll.

Barbie is also, according to her makers, more inclusive and diverse too.

“We have an amazing new hair fiber that gives us a very natural hair texture for African-American dolls,” said Kim Culmone, SVP of Design, Barbie.

“We have many different articulations of what Barbie can look like, which allows us to help expand our representation of what is beautiful and Barbie’s position as a cultural icon we take very seriously.”

In honor of international role models, the company has also produced limited edition ‘Shero’ Barbies, including American actress, model, and activist Yara Shahidi and Britain’s Adwoa Aboah, German cycling champion Kristina Vogel, Chinese visual artist Chen Man and Brazilian big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira.

(Production: Lisa Giles-Keddie)

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