Monday, April 11, 2011

Barbie Basics From Ebony to White


Barbie Basics Model No. 04 from Collections 001 and 002

Mattel's decision to change the complexion of Barbie Basics Model No. 04 from ebony to white has many collectors perplexed.  One such collector recently brought this to my attention.  Jorge (from Brazil) wrote:
I don't know if you wrote something about the dramatic change of the Model Number 4 in the Barbie Basics Black/Jeans.  But if you didn't I think you must... The dark skin girl was a success, all over the world.   And suddenly there's no more Afro girl in the Basic Jeans, and the stunning dark skin girl becomes a red [haired] lady.  Ok we love red hair, but it's important to preserve the success of the Afro beauty of a doll [like] Model Number 4.  Black Doll Collecting must talk about it.
I am doing just that... talking/writing about it. 

After comparing all Barbie Basics collections to date, like Jorge and his fellow Brazilians, I am also troubled by the elimination of the ebony complexion/Afro hairstyle combination used for the first Model No. 04.  Initially, Mattel replaced the doll in Collection 002 with the white, denim jeans-clad redhead shown above.

Model No. 04 will make a third appearance this June in the Barbie Basics Collection 002.5. The hair color is darker, the Goddess head sculpt the same, but the white complexion remains.   As Jorge observed, the Barbie Basics Collection has not offered another ebony-complexioned doll since the first Model No. 04.

I also noticed the disappearance of  Model No. 10.  She has been missing in action since Collection 001.  Remember her LBD with the controversial plunging neckline?  She is also the doll I used as my playscale version of First Lady Obama

Back to the current topic.

"Basically," the only dark-skinned doll (and she's not very dark) that has remained relatively constant in this collection is Model No. 08 -- the BeyoncĂ©-complexioned doll with honey blonde hair.  Model No. 08 was present in Collection 001, the Target-exclusive Collection Red, Collection 002, and will appear again in Collection 002.5.  Does her light-bright-darn-near white... or tan complexion play a role in her inclusion?

Will the ebony-complexioned Model No. 04 ever return or has she been permanently annihilated/axed, bumped off, canceled, discarded/dissed, excluded, gotten rid of, killed, left out, ousted, phased out, rejected/retired, stamped out, terminated?  And,  finally, will Model No. 08 remain the lone, light caramel brown doll in the Barbie Basics Collection?

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Jorge!  Your observation is proof that it's not just me or other frustrated American collectors who desire dolls with melanin-rich-appearing complexions.

As Jorge further explained,
As you know, we have a grand Afro-descendant population here, and the Barbie Basics Number 4 was a success exactly for [representing] the beauty of the dark skin girls.  And many of [these] girls believe in the power of a good image.

A dark skin model in the Barbie Basics Collection for sure was a good step for the self-esteem of these young ladies. So the surprise [about] the change of Model No. 04  was not exactly well taken [by] many people here...
Globally, people usually enjoy seeing themselves in the dolls they collect.  When one is given and later snatched away for no apparent reason, they feel highly disregarded.

dbg

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23 comments:

  1. Great post EbonyNicole! I think it's also VERY important that these manufactures keep in mind the young girls/women playing and collecting dolls too. It's so important for them to also see themselves being represented. We have to cut away from this cookie cutter, only one type of beauty mentality. It's 2011 and we still have the saaaaaaame issues...sad. :(

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  2. Amen, Tracy India -- beauty comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes!

    dbg

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  3. I often wonder what is going on with Mattel's thought process when it comes to the AA dolls. I almost feel that now that the S.I.S. dolls are out there, that Mattel has taken this as a pass to not produce too many AA dolls in the other collections. I have also recently questioned where the AA versions of Stacy and Skipper are. There is a whole new line of these dolls available in Caucasian versions and nothing in any other ethnicities. The S.I.S. kids do not cover all spectrums for the AA kids. And is it just me, but I've noticed that (at least in my area) it is almost impossible to regularly find the AA version of some of the new sets like the "I Can Be" dolls.

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  4. I had thought that the SiS line might have been considered the unofficial out for Mattel to NOT produce additional Black dolls. However, I have recently noted ONE set of the Barbie/little sister pairs that has a Black Barbie with a Black little sister. Perhaps more are to follow?

    But I, too, miss the number of Black Barbies in the Basics line.

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  5. Vanessa -- I'm not sure what's going on with Mattel. Skipper has returned, but the AA counterpart has not. I've only seen one AA Todd or Todd-sized doll produced by Mattel (maybe 2; I believe one was sold individually or in a set with Stacey). I would love another male his side or another AA Todd, even.

    D7ana -- I saw your recent post on AA Barbie and the Kelly-size set. I wonder how long it will take for that set to arrive to my area. I have the same problem that Vanessa mentioned. Whenever a new line is released that includes an AA or dark-skinned doll, it seems to take forever to arrive here. The lack of demand is not the issue either. Once the dolls arrive, the dark-skinned dolls usually fly off the shelves. I blame store buyers for not stocking the shelves according to demand. But sometimes the manufacturer is at fault, too. They may ship cases that contain 1 AA doll when there are several different dolls in a set. It's a complex issue, but nothing will be done about it if we do not let out voices be heard or hit them where it hurts... their pockets.

    dbg

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  6. And oh yeah, where is the articulated Steven doll? They took away the articulated Darren doll. They have produced 4 different articulated White male dolls, but no articulated Steven, or Darren replacement. I guess I really am asking for too much. But for goodness sake this is 2011!

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  7. Yes, that's right, Vanessa. I was hoping for an AA male in the Fashionistas line, but I guess I was hoping for too much.

    dbg

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  8. I'm glad to deserve your attention Debbie.
    And once again I have to say you:
    Thank You!
    BLACK DOLL COLLECTING is always up for a important discus­sion and it's good to have this place to share our vision about dolls, dolls factories,and dolls facts.
    As adults collectors we have the responsibility to preserv the self esteem of all the child and people on earth as an ethnic group.
    Thank You, Debbie!

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  9. Jorge - You're welcome! Thank you for giving me a valid doll topic to discuss.

    dbg

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  10. This is interesting! Since I have started my doll research/art project my attention was drawn to this Barbie Basics line. Allot of the people that I have spoken to in my community about my project have been excited to tell me that barbie has indeed recently created a line with a full spectrum of woman with different skin tones. after saying things like this they tend to tell me somthing like why do you need to create black doll if main stream doll companies like mattel are already making these changes. It is weird most people feel that creating a diverse line was the initial point of the Barbie Basics Line but now all of the unique variations are being phased out. I wonder what mattel is up to? Who is making these decisions and why? It is difficult to find diverse ethnicities of dolls in my area as well despite the demand.

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  11. Oh by goodness BDC, I just realized I mixed up my blog names when I posted my comment. I'm so sorry. That will teach me to comment while sleepy. LOL

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  12. No problem Tracy India. I knew you meant me.

    :-)

    BDC/dbg

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  13. I wrote a post about this last year
    http://brooklynstars-forever.blogspot.com/2010/09/should-barbie-basic-20-model4-stayed.html

    I think if they kept her dark skin and gave her a bigger afro maybe I would have bought her! But I had to past!

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  14. Hi Ebony Nicole,

    Had Mattel made one like you described, I would have purchased it as well as the one with the short curly hair.


    dbg

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  15. Wow, I purchased this doll for my daughter. She loves it and named it Alek :) I can't believe she's gone. Truly a collectors item now! I remember searching for a black Barbie years ago and I could only find the Destiny's Child collection. The darkest one being Kelly, we bought it. As of now, Kelly and Alek are her two favorite dolls!

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  16. Wonderful! I'm glad you purchased Alek for your daughter. Even more than that, I'm glad your daughter loves her!

    It is very difficult to find ebony-complexioned dolls. Another one to consider, although she is not quite as brown as Model 04, is Mattel's So in Style Chandra, if you can find her. She was excluded from the last few S.I.S. collections, but I am told she will resurface later this year. Here's hoping that the darkest doll in the S.I.S. line will live on as long as the line lives.

    dbg

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  17. Chaundra is in the new Pastry line that is already available in some of the Walmarts.

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  18. Excellent post. I wondered what happened to my favorite No.4! She was only the most exciting Barbie since Generation Girl Nichelle. It's so true that doll collectors see themselves in the dolls they collect. Although I'm as pasty as they come, I loved the Nichelle mold when I was growing up, because its hair looked like mine.
    I felt so sad when they discontinued it.

    Even though No.4 does not look at all like me (especially in the hair department), she has a serenity to her that lived up to the "Goddess Sculpt" name. Everything seems to fit perfectly, and she reminded me of Nichelle (even though no.10 bears an actual resemblance. She looks like a grown-up Nichelle!)

    Now that they axed no.4 and no.10, my interest in the new lines is completely dead. This is exactly why I don't buy Barbies.

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  19. I wonder how well Model #4 sold? Sometimes it comes down to the bottom line. If Model #4 didn't sell well in the first line, it really doesn't make good business sense to bring her back in the second line. I bought Model #4 and Model #10. But I remember being in the store with my sister-in-law (a non doll collector) and she hated Model #4. She took offense to how dark the doll was and made a comment about "look at how they are portraying us." She reacted as though she was seeing an Aunt Jemima doll. I immediately told her that I thought the doll was beautiful and there were probably a lot of dark skinned ladies out there that were happy to finally see themselves being portrayed. But how many other people were offended by this doll? How many of them potentially complained about the doll, like they did about Model #10. I imagine the uproar in the public over Model #10 may have had something to do with Mattel deciding to hold back on this one this go round. You never know what caused their decisions. Sometimes they are just sound business decisions. As an AA business woman myself, I am not in favor of continuing to produce product that doesn't sell. With the Barbie Basic Jean collection 1.0, I wouldn't be surprised if the only AA female doll did not return. Every time I go into the stores, there is overstock of this doll. She just isn't selling well. I think the Model #4 sculpt and skin color will resurface at a later date. Barbie Basics 1.0 wasn't her first introduction, and I doubt that it will be her last.

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  20. Hello Roxy,

    It is often disappointing when a manufacturer for whatever reason eliminates a certain head sculpt, complexion, body feature, etc. from a line. Model 04's absence was felt by those who enjoy collecting black dolls that represent the entire skin tone and hair-length spectrum in the AA/black culture. I'm sure Mattel will bring other similar dolls back, but whatever reason they decided to ax 04 and 10 remains a mystery to me.

    Vanessa -- It may have been a business decision that Model 04 and 10 were eliminated from the Barbie Basics line. Only Mattel knows for sure. I do know that some people within and outside the AA community cannot see beauty in ebony-complexioned dolls (or people). Couple that with short hair and you just lose them altogether. The closest in appearance a doll is to white becomes more acceptable for this ebony-frightened group of collectors.

    I want my dolls to represent the diversity of our various shades of brown skin and variety of hair lengths and textures to illustrate that within our own culture we come in all colors.

    We are beautiful with natural hair, with it dyed-long, or shaved short; and if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times (though I often think I'm preaching to the choir): There is absolutely nothing wrong with being black. All shades of it are beautiful to me.

    dbg

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  21. Correction: I often think I'm preaching to the choir should have been, "There's nothing wrong with being black seems to fall upon deaf ears."

    dbg

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  22. If it means anything, that's the only doll from the Barbie Basics line I've bought and intend on buying. I'm normally not interested in those kind of dolls (I'm more into custom Obitsus and Monster High), but I took one look at her and I was sold. It took forever to find her, too.

    Now if I can just get her on a better body...

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