The XX Factor

Forget Michelle Obama-Barbie Is the New Black Fashion Icon

Italian Vogue is celebrating Barbie’s 50th anniversary-not to mention the first anniversary of its historic all-black issue (isn’t that the most gorgeous photo of Naomi Campbell you’ve ever seen?)-with a very cool little supplement called “The Barbie Issue,” full of fashion shoots starring black Barbies. Jezebel has an excerpt ; may I recommend it as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up?

As one commenter, dandelionbrowne, pointed out, one of the most striking things about the spread is the wide range of skintones, facial structures, and hair types on display. It sounds like the dolls are prototypes for a new line of Barbies ; The Cut’s Amy Odell quotes the following press release:

[T]he So In Style dolls … have been designed with more authentic-looking black features, including a new facial sculpt that has fuller lips, a wider nose, more distinctive cheek bones and curlier hair.

Those sound awesome. (Read more about them in Raven L. Hill’s essay in The Root .) Here’s hoping Mattel expands to other races; I have some nieces who’ll be needing dolls to make them feel physically inadequate-but racially accepted!-in a few years. (I kid. Kind of.)

Odell and several Jezebel readers also point out that, as much as they like “The Barbie Issue,” they’d rather see more, you know, actual black people in Vogue. Fair point, though I love the idea of this supplement becoming a treasured keepsake in some little girl’s toy chest.

And finally, even though I share Dodai from Jezebel’s mixed feelings about the “tribal photos” ( here and here ), they also bring back fond memories of when my grandmother would sew little saris and lenghas for my Barbies. So I’m inclined to forgive them, just a little bit.