WE NEED A NEW BARBIE
AT ONE JOB, NO ONE EVEN KNEW MY NATURAL HAIR WAS CURLY
YOU MUST’VE SEEN the news stories about Angelica Sweeting, the African American mom of two little girls, who, after being unable to nd dolls that look like her or her children, decided to make her own. Not long before that, Rihanna was lauded for voicing the character Tip in the animated lm Home, because Tip is a young black girl – the rst black lead in a 3D animated lm. And she comes with beautiful curly hair and coffee-coloured skin. These may not seem like remarkable feats but when you’ve spent your life looking for versions of yourself in toy stores and not nding them, it feels like a victory.
It’s unfortunate that Barbie gets a hard time for her long blonde hair, but on the few occasions I played with mine, it was her hair that fascinated me. Now I know that it’s made of Saran, a type of plastic, but as a young girl, perfectly sleek and straight Barbie hair was all I wanted. And it just was not going to happen for me – not without my mom carefully blow-drying my hair for an hour, anyway. It took me many years to get comfortable with my naturally curly hair that springs off my head in any direction it pleases and has a temperament entirely of its own. At one job, no one even knew my natural hair was curly, because I would painstakingly ensure it was straight every day. Is this all Barbie’s fault? Not necessarily, but I think it would have made a difference to not feel like I wasn’t measuring up to some standard I had no control over.
Perhaps, if I’d seen a version of myself in my toy box, I wouldn’t have spent all that time battling it out with my hairdryer – which I haven’t touched in months now. But time and electricity saving aside, there’s no way to really tell. With hindsight, though, I’m ecstatic to see men and women of colour working to create a positive body image for girls and women whose natural colour, curls and curves are still waiting to make it into the mainstream.
The Angelica doll