Monday, June 9, 2014

Her First Doll was Malibu Barbie

During her touching tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou on Saturday, June 7, 2014, as she reflected on the impact Dr. Angelou's poem, "Phenomenal Woman" had on her, First Lady Michelle Obama shared that her first doll was the blonde, blue-eyed Malibu Barbie.  As a little Black girl from the South Side of Chicago, Dr. Angelou's poem, allowed her to see herself "in a whole new light," said First Lady Obama.

My first doll, and the many that followed, was also white with blonde hair and blue eyes.  By the time Mattel released the original Malibu Barbie (Sun Set Malibu Barbie) in 1971, my doll interest had long faded.  By then, however, I too was well aware of Maya Angelou having read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and years later viewed the film version.  She has been one of my "sheroes" for over four decades.  For me, her recent transition was comparable to losing a close family member.

According to Mattel's description of the Malibu Barbie reproduced in 2008, "This doll solidified Barbie doll's image as the quintessential California girl."  Like many other Barbie themed dolls, the 1971 doll, Sun Set Malibu Barbie, and the 1976 remake, Malibu Barbie, had several friends.  The friends included in the 1976 doll set were:  Malibu Ken, Skipper, Francie, Christie, and PJ.  These dolls are illustrated below in a scan of page 117 from Barbie Doll Photo Album 1959 to 2009 Identification and Values by the late J. Michael Augustyniak (Collector Books, 2010).






Malibu Barbie (first doll, first row above) is one of the many Barbies made to portray the global ideal of feminine beauty.  A minute percentage of females, however, actually possess the doll's California-girl appearance, reflecting the fallacy of this one standard of beauty concept.


Malibu Christie, Mattel, 1976 (box date 1975)

Just look at my favorite Malibu doll -- Malibu Christie (second doll, row two in the scanned image and immediately above).  Her beauty shines through her smooth ebony complexion, her jet black hair, her oval brown eyes, her broad nose underneath an almost absent nasal bridge, and her fuller-than Barbie's lips.  I purchased two Malibu Christies shortly after my enthusiasm erupted in the early '90s for dolls that accurately portray people who look like me. 

My two Malibu Christie dolls.

Thank God for the Maya Angelous of the world who instilled and continue to instill a sense of self-worth in girls of all colors, teaching them to realize just how phenomenal they are now and how much more they can become when they learn to love every inch of themselves first without attempting to look like another or ever feel they are insignificant.  When they love themselves first without seeking approval from others, exploring and cultivating their interests, becoming life-long knowledge seekers, and motivated achievers will then become second nature. 

Just as Dr. Angelou's poem became an affirmation for Michelle Obama long before she became the first African American First Lady of the United States, it should become doctrine for little girls and women around the world:

Phenomenal Woman
by Maya Angelou
(first published in Cosmopolitan in 1978)
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
 And you.

 dbg


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10 comments:

  1. Great post Debbie! I heard that too from FLOTUS! But I thought, "Really"?? In 1971?? Amazing!

    Hope all is well!!

    Hugs!
    Lee

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    1. Thanks, Lee!

      I had to do some math after I heard her say that Malibu Barbie was her first doll. Being 50 now, FLOTUS was about 7 when the first Malibu Barbie was released. I am sure she had other dolls prior to that. Malibu Barbie is probably the first one she remembers enjoying, like Thumbelina is for me. I was around 6 when Thumbelina was released and I know I had dolls prior to then.

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  2. A lovely post and a fitting tribute.

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    1. Thanks, Muff.

      This was more of a tribute to all women using Angelou's poem and to encourage each one to love the skin they are in regardless of early life influences that might have led them to believe they were less than perfect.

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  3. This is a beautiful tribute, Debbie. Maya Angelou has been an inspiration to me since my teen years. She will be sorely missed.

    Your Malibu Christie doll is so lovely. I would have loved to have had a doll like that as a child. I'm glad that there is a much larger selection of Black dolls now than there was then. I'm glad that I have the chance to purchase Black dolls that were made back then that I didn't even know about until I became an adult.

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    1. Hi Roxanne,

      I am also glad that we have a better selection of Black dolls today. I also appreciate eventually discovering Black dolls that were made during my childhood that I did not own then but am fortunate to own now.

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  4. Great tribute! I've heard Dr. Angelou recite this poem on numerous occasions. As I was reading it, I could hear her speaking the words. I could also see the facial expressions she would make while reading it. Still hard to believe she's not here.

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    1. Hi Vanessa,

      I recently joined Audible.com on a trial basis and selected two free audio books. One book is And Still I Rise narrated by Maya Angelou. Initially, I had read that Phenomenal Woman was in this book of poems. Unfortunately, it is not. It first appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1978 and was later published in 1995 in a book with three other poems dedicated to women entitled Phenomenal Woman. Now I wish I had selected that book as one of my free audio books, but I can always hear and see Dr. Angelou recite Phenomenal Woman online.

      My other free audio book through Audible is: With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together. I love it! Listening to these two now also silenced voices brought me such pleasure. I have several more listening hours to enjoy of this title.

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  5. hey there! i just came across your blog and i really love it, i'm a huge fashion doll fan and avid collector.

    i'm a white girl and i had malibu christie back in the seventies. to me she was part of the barbie family' and as such there was no question as to whether or not i would want her. i also had her boyfriend, brad, who talked! he said something like 'christie is the best girlfriend ever!' or something like that. she also had another boyfriend, steven, who i liked less than brad, maybe because he didn't talk about how cool christie was. :)

    there was another barbie made in the early eighties who had a natural, and that was even more awesome to me because i grew up in a big city where all the black girls had naturals. it was always so odd to me that christie had flat hair! i don't know how this doll was received by the black community though. i think she might have been called african american barbie? i liked her a lot and had her too.

    my mom didn't understand why i wanted black dolls, which i thought was weird. my dad got it, though and he would always pick them up for me.

    ach, this sucks to write, but my mom was a pretty bad racist. she never said anything, but it was all in what she didn't say, or who we weren't supposed to hang around. for example, my dad had a black friend at his job named eugene, and eugene had two daughters who were my age, and i was the loneliest kid in town which is probably why i had every barbie on the face of the planet.

    my dad was always trying to soften my mom up and get them to come over for dinner one night, or for us to go and visit them, but it never happened. i'd play with danielle and tracy when we were picking up my dad from work and it was sad because i really liked them and vice versa. we would talk about our moms and it turned out theirs was the same as my mom, really concerned with color and keeping separate. meanwhile we were all lonely and just wanted to play! then we ended up moving away to a really small town, and that was awful.

    i sometimes think the seventies were such a hopeful time in so many ways. i was too little to know anything about maya angelou at the time, but i did know rosey grier singing 'it's all right to cry' on the free to be you and me record, and i think sometimes that we've moved backwards instead of forwards. it felt like there was some momentum that somehow slipped away, and by the time the nineties rolled around all that hope felt like a bedtime story you heard once or twice but you'd forgotten the ending.

    i wish we could go back and start over in lots of ways. i hope the world is better for our kids and grandkids.

    take care!

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  6. Hello Alone in the Dark,

    I am glad you found my blog and hope you will visit often. I enjoyed reading your comment to this post.

    It is sad that your mother and the mother of your father’s coworker were not progressive enough to allow girls to be girls and play, despite your outward differences. It is great your father picked up black dolls for you every now and then and while your mother didn’t understand the reason you wanted them, I get a sense that she did buy them for you.

    The first black doll given the name Barbie was released in 1980 (box date 1979). Doll/Barbie lovers/collectors had to wait 20 years for this. The doll did have a short curly Afro and came with a red ‘pick’ for fluffing out her curls. The doll was named Black Barbie. The box described Black Barbie as “dynamite”!

    I agree with your assessment about the way things were and are now:

    i think sometimes that we've moved backwards instead of forwards. it felt like there was some momentum that somehow slipped away, and by the time the nineties rolled around all that hope felt like a bedtime story you heard once or twice but you'd forgotten the ending.

    i wish we could go back and start over in lots of ways. i hope the world is better for our kids and grandkids.


    I am keeping hope alive that one day (hopefully in my lifetime) people will see people as the humans they are and not as a color first.

    dbg

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!