Barbie wears ballet slippers and bright red tulle in this new doll design–but that's hardly the boldest thing about her. The fiery feminine figure is modeled after Misty Copeland, the first black female principal dancer of the prestigious American Ballet Theater.
Copeland collaborated directly with Barbie to create the purchasable mini-me, which challenges the white, blonde stereotype of the classic toy. Rather than being posed permanently in heels, the doll's sculpted calves poise her sturdily on pointe, with the flexibility to move in plis and arabesques. Her outfit mimics a costume from one of Copeland's most momentous roles from four years ago: Firebird, which was key in her trajectory towards her present-day principal dancer position.
To ensure that the final product felt realistic, Copeland says she provided personal feedback on many prototypes, requesting changes as specific as fuller lips and a broader nose. The muscles were perhaps most important, she explains, because “That's so much a part of me. And something I've been criticized for and celebrated for. It's OK to be strong, and you can still be feminine. Dancers are athletes. Why try and hide that feature? We need these muscles to do what we do.”
Copeland has considered herself a Barbie fan since age 13, so designing a doll in her likeness was a surreal experience. More momentous, though, is the message that this Barbie sends to a new generation of could-be dancers. As she describes, “The power of being able to see yourself represented in different spaces means so much for the growth of a young child, to be able to think they can be anything.”
All images via Barbie/Mattel.