This year neither Kate Upton, nor Brooklyn Decker, nor any other living woman landed the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover. That “honor” went to Barbie. The 55-year-old doll.
The makers of Barbie, Mattel, wanted to celebrate “the doll that started it all.”
“As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing . . . gives Barbie . . . and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are,” said Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s senior vice president of marketing.
The campaign is a departure for the 55-year old doll, which has been both beloved as a plaything and criticized as an unrealistic standard of beauty for decades.
In fact, Barbie has faced scrutiny for everything from her chiseled facial features and disproportionately small waist to her “life choices.” And last year, an artist renewed controversy over Barbie’s effect on body image after an artist posted pictures of the more meaty physique the doll would have if she had the figure of an average 19-year-old.
And with this latest move, Mattel shouldn’t expect the critics to silence anytime soon. In fact, outrage over the move hit social media almost immediately, the most-voiced concern being the impact Barbie’s appearance on the cover will have on body image in the eyes of girls, young women . . . and men.
But this latest move, which again sparked online debate on Wednesday about body image issues, comes as Mattel tries to revive interest in the doll icon. Barbie is worth an estimated $1.3 billion annually in sales for the toymaker and she’s the No. 1 toy brand.
Mattel hopes the “unapologetic” campaign will boost Barbie’s image.
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As part of the campaign, there will be a collector Sports Illustrated Barbie doll, an event at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Beach House on Monday, a billboard in New York’s Times Square and @Barbie tweets with the hashtag “unapologetic” on Twitter. Barbie also will appear on the cover of 1,000 issues in an advertising “cover wrap” for the New York Toy Fair, which starts Sunday.
“Unapologetic” is a word that Mattel executives use internally, said McKnight, the senior vice president at Mattel. But she said this is the first time the company is “engaging in a conversation publicly.”
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day said Barbie fits in with the swimsuit issue’s “message of empowerment” for women.
But Allen Adamson, a branding expert, said he’s not sure a feature in Sport’s Illustrated’s swimsuit issue is the right strategy for the brand.
“The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one step away from Playboy magazine,” he said. “It is potentially sending the wrong message to girls.”
As a little girl, I was never allowed to play with Barbies…but that could have been because we could never afford them. Hmm… I don’t have daughters, so I’m not sure how I would feel about them if I did. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t let my daughter play with Barbies either, but I’m sure I’d cave first time she asked for one.
I can see how as a mom you wouldn’t want your daughters to think this is what women do or should look like, but that’s a confidence thing. Hopefully as a parent you’ve already taught your daughter things like self-confidence. IMHO all mothers should teach their daughters that they are beautiful no matter WHAT. No matter whether they’re chunky or too skinny. Acne or clear skin, makeup or makeup-free. All girls are beautiful – and we need to empower them to see that!
Do you let your daughter’s play with Barbies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!