The Prettie Girls doll line, created by former Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby, is a multicultural depiction of so many girls today – from African to African American to Latino and bi-racial ethnicity.
McBride-Irby hoped to fill a void for young girls of color who for so long have been playing with dolls that don’t look like them.
Last year, McBride-Irby, who achieved worldwide acclaim in 2009 as the creator of the first African-American Barbie Doll line by Mattel called So In Style dolls, to more accurately represent African-American women began working on her company, One World Doll Project with business partner Trent Daniel, CNN reportedto expand this concept.
The company wanted “to create multicultural dolls that were 100% authentic to the varying hair, skin, body and facial features possessed by members of various ethnic communities,” a company statement reads.
Dolls and Self-image
“The One World Doll Project is not only offering African-American dolls, but dolls of color around the world,” McBride-Irby told CNN. “My dolls are going to have real stories, making girls feel more positive in their self-image.”
And a positive self-image is important in young girls, especially for those of color. Researcher and psychologist Kenneth Clark underscored this point in his famous doll studies conducted over 50 years ago.
In the study he found that black children, if given a choice, overwhelmingly selected white dolls and considered them more desirable than their darker counterparts. He concluded that racial segregation contributed to children feeling stigmatized and inferior as a person, damaging their sense of self.
The feeling of being less valued occur with other girls of color as well.
On a discussion board on this topic, a person with the user name Jasmine-3345543,said she was of biracial heritage (Black and Mexican) and as a child, ” Barbie was never something I wanted to look like.” But for her daughter, this didn’t happen.
She said her daughter, at the age of five, shocked her one day, telling her “that she wanted to be White and that White Barbies were way prettier than Black Barbies. I was in shock,” she writes.
“How could my child who I had taught all her life to be proud of her culture and look [sic] want to be White or think it was better to be White when we are all equal in God’s sight?”
“The One World Doll Project is a dream come true for me as a doll designer, a mother and a woman of color,” said McBride-Irby in a company press release. “Being able to fill the void in play that exists for those who are under-represented by doll-makers is a huge responsibility – one that I take on with joy and pride!”
It is a responsibility and void that the So In Style line of African-American Barbie™ dolls helped prepare her for. The dolls displayed the uniqueness of skin tones represented in the world — light brown, chocolate, and caramel — had fuller lips and more defined cheek bones.
“I want them to see themselves within these dolls, and let them know that black is beautiful,” she said.
It was something she didn’t have as a child.
“I searched high and low for a doll that was my skin complexion,” she writes on her website, “a doll that looked like me!”
She never found it.
But what she did find, what she did discover, was a passion for fashion design at the age of 13. “I started researching fashion and that’s when I realized that I could be a doll designer.”
Then, one day, as if seeing herself as the little girl she once was, McBride-Irby noticed that her then four-year-old daughter didn’t like playing with Barbie dolls.
” I realized maybe it was because the doll didn’t look like her, or didn’t represent her,”she said.
Mattel gave her the opportunity to design for her daughter, and girls like her, the very doll that she never had: a doll that looked like her.
Now, McBride-Irby gets to help other young girls of color with the Prettie Girls™ line. What makes these dolls beautiful is not only their physical appearance but their inner beauty, their character.
Each doll is assigned a personality and a backstory so that the doll owner can get to know them. The Valencia is a Latina and is bold, daring, and athletic. Alexie is Caucasian; Born two months early, she has been fighting against the odds from day one. Being smaller than the other kids, she was picked on in school so now she defends others. Lena is African-American; she’s fun and has made being smart cool! Kimani is African, and beautiful on the inside and out. She’s artistic and creative and a great friend. Dahlia is Middle Eastern, an extrovert with a rescued puppy, the bio reads.
Critics of multicultural dolls
Not everyone likes multicultural dolls. Some parents criticize the notion that children can be influenced by the complexion of a Barbie doll, that it’s just a toy. ” I’m a 40yr old African-american woman, i played with Caucasian barbies because that’s all was available for barbies when i was a kid,” writes a woman on a forum. “I LOVED playing with them because i loved playing with DOLL BABIES…and NEVER did i want to look like barbie or any other DOLL.”
Other parents and TV commentators criticized the “So In Style” line of dolls, saying the dolls with long straight hair weren’t “black enough.”
“Why are we always pushing this standard of long hair on our girls?” asked Gail Parrish, 60, a playwright in Alexandria, Va., and a mother of four grown children, the Charlotte Observer reported in 2009. “Why couldn’t one of the dolls have a little short afro, or shorter braids or something?”
Others disagree with critics who say the dolls should have had more natural hairstyles, such as afros or braids.
“Many people have criticized the dolls for either having hair that’s too long or too straight, but I have long, straight hair that I straightened. But it’s my hair and a part of me,” said Tanisa Zoe Samuel, an African-American iReporter from the Turks and Caicos, in the Caribbean. “Black women come in all shades, shapes and varieties that there is just no way to capture everyone with three dolls.”
McBride-Irby said she has heard the criticism and recently talked about the issue with CNN.
“I feel it’s the adults; I keep getting those comments from mostly women who don’t play with dolls anymore.”
But three-year-olds, her target market, had different needs.
“Their main focus is to brush and comb the hair and they can’t do that with a short curlier style,” she said. “So, my main focus was to attract the little girls.”
The company launched the Prettie Girls collection with Sophia, a collector’s doll available in two styles that support Barack Obama’s 2012 election,
The rest of the Prettie Girls line will start going on sale in the fall. Prices start around $19.