Though famously snubbed for Best Director at Oscar time, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and her otherwise Academy Award winning “Selma” made history last year. DuVernay wasn’t just the first African American woman to direct a movie nominated for Best Picture; she helmed what is arguably the highest-profile film about Martin Luther King Jr. to date.
But there is always another mountain to climb. DuVernay announced that a Barbie Doll made in her image will go on sale Monday — and, despite Barbie’s bad name among some concerned about how the dolls affect young girls, the director and her fans are psyched.
“Wild + wonderful,” DuVernay tweeted.
“Am I too old to put this on my Santa list?” one Twitter user wondered.
DuVernay’s Barbie has been in the works for some time. The doll, part of Barbie’s “Sheroes” line, was announced this past spring.
“Barbie has always represented that girls have choices, and this Spring we are proud to honor six Sheroes who through their trade and philanthropic efforts are an inspiration to girls,” said Evelyn Mazzocco, Barbie’s general manager, said at the time. “Started by a female entrepreneur and mother, this brand has a responsibility to continue to honor and encourage powerful female role models who are leaving a legacy for the next generation of glass ceiling breakers.”
The other Sheroes, according to Barbie’s statement:
- Emmy Rossum: Golden Globe nominated actress and spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society, the only national animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters and a leader in the no-kill movement.
- Eva Chen: Breaking boundaries by bringing inspiration to print as the youngest appointed female Editor-in-Chief of a national fashion magazine, Lucky.
- Kristin Chenoweth: An inspiration on Broadway and beyond, the Emmy and Tony Award nominee and winner also founded the Kristin Chenoweth Art & Education Fund volunteering with young talent in the arts.
- Sydney “Mayhem” Keiser: Five year-old fashion designer with work appearing in Vogue and signed on with major national fashion brand, J.Crew, for the collection “Little Mayhem for J.Crew” launching in June.
- Trisha Yearwood: A woman with many super powers, succeeding as an award-winning country artist, best-selling author, Food Network host and entrepreneur.
As the Wrap reported, the original plan was to make just one doll per woman that would then be auctioned off to charity. But DuVernay’s fans successfully campaigned to have hers mass-produced; DuVernay will donate any proceeds.
Barbie has long been a target among some who worry the dolls negatively impact girls’ self-perception, particularly when it comes to body image. One 2006 study, for example, found that “girls exposed to Barbie reported lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape than girls in the other exposure conditions” (though, in the case of this study, that effect faded with time). One Twitter user went so far as to ask whether DuVernay-Barbie was suspiciously slimmer than DuVernay.
“Mattel’s tag line says one thing, but its product sends a different message: Be anything you want to be,” Marianne Cooper wrote in the Atlantic in a piece called “Yes, Even Doctor Barbie Sends Girls the Wrong Message.” “Just be sure to look beautiful and sexy doing it. Spend a lot of time thinking about what you look like and always monitor how much you eat. This may mean you accomplish less in your life. But for a girl, having other people think you are attractive is a really important goal.”
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) December 6, 2015
But in an industry that often seems to willfully ignore women of color — as producer Effie Brown’s misadventures on the recent season of “Project Greenlight” showed — maybe a little bit of visibility is worth other, less well-defined risks. After all, the DuVernay Barbie comes with a director’s chair.
“The honor is well deserved!” Bossip wrote. “Congratulations Ava!”