Ahead of Black History Month, Mattel has announced that Dr. Maya Angelou will become a Barbie doll. The late author, activist and teacher is the latest honoree of the franchise’s Inspiring Women series, alongside Amelia Earheart, Rosa Parks and Ella Fitzgerald.
The new Barbie doll, whose face is “sculpted to Dr. Angelou’s likeness,” wears a head-wrap, jewelry and floral print dress. It also holds a replica of her 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in which the late writer recalls her childhood in the terrifying universe of the rural Jim Crow South. An autobiography nominated for a National Book Award that Mattel describes as “a gripping account of overcoming adversity in her early life.”
The toy company also added that Dr. Angelou is a “fitting addition” to the “Inspiring Women” line, which was launched in 2018 in order to celebrate “women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.” Other past honorees have included NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, British nurse Florence Nightingale, American tennis player Billie Jean King and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson, told Today he is “delighted” that his mother was chosen for Barbie’s Inspiring Women line and hopes that this new doll “will inspire new generations of teachers, writers and activists.”
However, it is currently sold out on Mattel’s online store, with collectors complaining about the amount of dolls released. Some are already being resold on Amazon for more than $140 (over P6,700), although their retail price is only $29.99 (about P1,440).
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In addition to honoring a historical icon, this newest Barbie doll aims to fulfill Mattel’s commitment to feature black, indigenous and other women of color as more than 50% of its future Role Model dolls.
These past few years, the toy manufacturer has launched several initiatives to shift away from Barbie’s image as the thin, blue-eyed blonde icon blamed for promoting unrealistic beauty standards to young children.
Last year, it launched a new line of dolls featuring “more skin tones, hair types and body shapes than ever before.” One of them has notably a prosthetic leg, while another has vitiligo, a condition that causes patches of skin to lose melanin. JB