For more than half a century, the name “Barbie” has conjured indelible images into the psyches of children and adults alike: carefree, shapely, blond, and white. Now Mattel has enhanced the image of its fifty-something doll with the addition of So in Style Locks of Looks Barbie, a version inspired by Atlanta’s own hair-product juggernaut, Bronner Bros. The toy giant approached the sixty-five-year-old African American–owned company about making a special doll to coincide with Bronner’s spectacularly successful, twice-a-year hair-care trade show—next one is February 18 to 21. (The show attracts about 60,000 attendees and was featured in Chris Rock’s 2009 film “Good Hair.”) Mattel enlisted designer Stacey McBride-Irby—the originator of the company’s first black doll line—to create the dolls, which come in three different models and are available at Walmart, Kmart, and other select retailers for about $20 each. All three models come with four hair extensions and a younger sister. “I want African American girls to know that dolls can represent their career aspirations, hobbies, and ethnic backgrounds,” says McBride-Irby.
Photograph by Kaylinn Gilstrap; retouching by Scott Klingsoehr