Barbie gets makeover

The new curvy Barbie (left) has a bigger bust and posterior, thicker thighs and a protruding tummy, as compared to its original shape (right).
The new curvy Barbie (left) has a bigger bust and posterior, thicker thighs and a protruding tummy, as compared to its original shape (right). PHOTO: REUTERS, ST FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK • Barbie, the world's most famous doll, has a new body. In fact, she has three new bodies - petite, tall and curvy.

About 57 years after the impossibly busty and narrow-waisted blue-eyed Barbie doll was first introduced, California-based toy maker Mattel on Thursday released the new models, which it says better reflect a changing world.

Parents and feminists have long criticised Barbie's original shape as setting an unrealistic body image for girls, despite modifications over the years.

The new dolls have seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, 24 hairstyles and new clothes and accessories. They are available for order online at shop.mattel.com and are expected to reach major retailers in March.

The move follows years of decline for Barbie, which accounts for about US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in annual revenue. Facing competition from other brands such as Frozen and girl-oriented toys such as the Lego Friends line, Barbie sales tumbled 14 per cent in the most recently reported quarter.

"These new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them - the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them," said Ms Evelyn Mazzocco, senior-vice- president and global general manager of the Barbie brand.

"We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty."

The new curvy Barbie has a bigger bust, posterior, thicker thighs and a protruding tummy. She landed on the cover of Time magazine on Thursday with the headline "Now can we stop talking about my body?" and was a trending topic on Twitter.

The classic Barbie doll, launched in 1959 as a doe-eyed teen in a zebra-striped swimsuit, will remain part of the Mattel line. In 1963, she came with a book entitled How to Lose Weight, with instructions to not eat.

On her way to becoming a global pop culture icon, Barbie has tried out more than 180 careers, ranging from teacher to astronaut and United States president. African-American Barbies and other ethnic versions were introduced starting in the late 1960s.

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG, GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Barbie gets makeover'. Print Edition | Subscribe