Barbie’s Inspiring Women doll series just added another to its ranks: the incomparable Maya angelou.
Although most famous for her memoir, Angelou expressed it amazing creative talent across a wide range of mediums including song, dance, poetry, journalism, dramaturgy, and theater – grappling with American racism, sexism, trauma, resilience and black identity. The first installment in his seven-volume autobiography series, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is considered a modern American classic. (A small replica of the 1969 book is included with the Maya Angelou doll.)
In addition to her creative pursuits, Angelou was also a civil rights activist, organizing alongside Martin Luther King jr. with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. In 2011, Angelou received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama, one of dozens of awards she has won in 86 years. She died in 2014.
For the Inspiring Women series, there is hardly a more qualified character. Angelou is the 10th doll in the set, launched in 2018, and the fourth black woman to be honored. Others include Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Ella Fitzgerald, Katherine Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Billie Jean King, Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks and Sally Ride.
“As a powerful writer and activist, [Angelou’s] an extraordinary life and an unforgettable legacy is exactly what we hope this collection inspires the next generation, ”said Lisa McKnight, please Mattel and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls. “By introducing children to the courageous story and written works of Maya Angelou through doll play, our goal is to spark conversation and awareness with children and their families.”
Last year, the Mattel-owned brand announced plans to improve representation, promising that at least 50% of its future “models” would be black, Indigenous or women of color.
“Diversity and inclusion must be the foundation of everything we do,” said a spokesperson for Mattel. “We will continue to be united in the fight against racism and to help remove the barriers that prevent the next generation from reaching their full potential.”
The brand has long been criticized for its unrealistic portrayal of female bodies, but has made strides in recent years, spanning over 35 skin tones, 94 hairstyles, and nine body types. the All-female 2020 campaign team, for example, featured a black presidential candidate, an Asian campaign manager, a curvy fundraiser, and a petite brunette voter.
Barbie has also partnered with Cardiff University for research, published last fall, it showed how doll play help kids develop empathy and social skills. Other studies have found similar results, noting in particular the positive impact that a diverse set of dolls can have on children’s understanding and empathy for people who seem different to them.
While the initial online inventory of Maya Angelou dolls sold out online within two days, there were still products on the shelves at some Target stores at the time of writing. Still, the resale market is hot, indicating there is no shortage of demand for the new doll: $ 29.99 on Mattel’s official site, but on eBay they start at $ 50.
Mattel declined to give specific figures on initial inventory or restocking, but said there would be more available by the end of next month.