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A Lesson in Beauty from Barbie?

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Christina Montoya Fiedler: When I was a little girl, my mother made sure that I always had positive roles models in my life, right down to the dolls that I played with in my dollhouse. Whenever possible, she made sure that I had dolls that looked like me - and by that I mean ones that had brown hair, brown eyes, and dark skin (well, I'm pretty fair, but you get the point. The dolls looked Hispanic).

hispanic and caucasian barbies

This year Barbie turns 50 and I'd like to give thanks in particular to Hispanic Barbie. Her beautiful long, brown hair, her big brown eyes and rich coffee skin. ¡Que bonita! The first Hispanic Barbie hit the shelves in 1980, the same year the world saw the first African American Barbie. The year after that, an Asian Barbie. A whole new world of play was born for children around the world, who could now see themselves in their most coveted possessions - a Barbie doll.

So much of what we learn as children, whether it is from our parents, friends, or the media, contributes to the confidence and self-worth that we possess as adults -- especially our idea of beauty. So, maybe I don't look like a supermodel, drive an expensive car, or live in a dream house, but I'm still me, and I'm still special. I learned that from my Mama. And, being a Mama myself now, I want to teach that to my children.

I want them to know that they are beautiful inside and out, and what the media says is "beautiful" is not necessarily the epitome of what is right or good. To be accepting of others, all colors, makes and models, is a lesson that is never too early to teach. Besides my Hispanic Barbie, I had many other dolls -- a regular Olympic team of muñecas from various nations. I had dolls that were Native American, African American, blonde-haired blue-eyed, and Indian. It taught me acceptance on a small scale that was later played out on a larger scale on the playground.

Amazing to think that something as small as a doll can set the tone in a woman's life, or make such a big impression, but then again, I've never been one to doubt the power of a Barbie.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley March 21, 2009, 8:21 AM

I have a friend whose daughter is mixed, black and white, and she buys her dolls of both races. My toddler actually picked out a black baby doll the other day and my husband started to protest and I said “why not?”. SO she got it. I want my kids to understand people are people, no matter what color. I grew up in small towns in eastern Oklahoma and never went to school with and african americans, just some native americans. So when I was in 8th grade we moved to a suburb of OKC and it was strange to be around so many different races. BUt cool, I made friends with people of all different ethinicities. Had my parents bought me mixed races of dolls, maybe it wouldn’t have been so strange at first!!

Eve March 21, 2009, 11:03 AM

I can definitely identify with you on this one. I have always loved Barbie, and I too remember when the first Hispanic Barbie hit the scene (they were very difficult to find though). It was exciting to me as a Black/Hispanic little girl to find someone who looked like me! It gave me so much confidence.
I learned all of my beauty AND business skills from Barbie!
Great post!

MarMar March 21, 2009, 12:15 PM

My family is Spanish, and my aunt had to send me a Hispanic Barbie from California to West Virginia because they didn’t even carry them there. I loved her instantly. I felt she was MY Barbie, made just for ME. Now my daughter plays with Barbies and other dolls of any race, and what is adorable is, she considers them all family. One Caucasian baby doll and an African-American one are “twins”, according to her. One Barbie family has a multi-racial mom (the new President Barbie), an African-American Ken dad, and Caucasian and African-American kids. (One of whom is her Barack Obama doll, who is considerably shorter than the Barbies and therefore must be a child in her eyes, lol.) Sometimes her Mulan doll is the mother of the kids, too. She’s not quite 6 yet, and she doesn’t see race, she sees love - the dolls are “related” because they love one another. So I have to thank the manufacturers of these dolls to offer them all, so this utopia can exist; if only it could spread beyond my daughter’s playroom.

Keri April 8, 2009, 9:42 PM

My daughter is multiracial - Italian, Maya, Hispanic - Spanish and Central American, German, French, African, and Irish. She plays with her dolls in the same manner MarMar described. It’s the best thing ever watching her!

Quinn Arcangel March 28, 2011, 8:21 PM

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