Mattel on Tuesday launched its first series of black dolls featuring varying skin tones and ethnically authentic looks, with a big sister portrayed as a role model to a little sister.
Mattel describes the dolls as having "fuller lips, a wider nose, more distinctive cheek bones and curlier hair" than their predecessors.
The "So In Style" line includes three sets of sisters: Older sister Grace with younger sister Courtney; Trishelle and Janessa, and Kara and Kianna. Each character has a distinct personality: Grace's style is "girly girl," Trishelle is "smart and sassy," and Kara is "funky and fun," according to Mattel.
The big-and-little sister dolls together cost $19.99; the little doll assortment is $7.99, and the Stylin' Hair doll assortment costs $24.99.
Mattel's design of new dolls isn't child's play. Stacey McBride-Irby, a Barbie designer for 12 years who lives in Gardena, Calif., came up with the line because she wanted authentic and inspirational dolls for her 8- and 6-year-old daughters.
Mattel employs 25 "hair and face designers," including two licensed cosmetologists, according to an article in Allure magazine marking Barbie's 50th birthday this year. The magic still works, since "Holiday Barbie" is on retailers' lists of popular toys for this coming holiday season.
Barbie has had ethnically diverse "friends," both male and female, for many years, including the late 1960s-era Brad, Ken's friend, and the "Nurse Julia" doll depicting the TV character played by Diahann Carroll.
Yet the mentoring role of the older "So In Style" sister is "a way of letting girls see that they can take on a positive leadership role," said Reyne Rice, toy trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association.
"Girls age 14 can mentor girls who are 6 by teaching positive values and what it takes to get along in the world," Rice said. source