Nation & World

'Does anyone black work there?' Barbie with blond hair and cornrows sparks controversy

A photo of a black Barbie on the Barbie Style Instagram has sparked controversy on social media because of the doll's "confusing" hairstyle. Critics want Mattel to "do better."
A photo of a black Barbie on the Barbie Style Instagram has sparked controversy on social media because of the doll's "confusing" hairstyle. Critics want Mattel to "do better." Instagram/Barbie Style

Barbie has been many things over the years — Air Force pilot, pediatrician, NASCAR driver, president of the United States.

Now some people think she's a fashion don't.

To promote Hulu's new Barbie documentary, the Barbie Style Instagram account posted a photo of three Barbies sitting on a couch with a computer.

“Movie night with my girls to watch the @Hulu premiere of the new @Barbie documentary, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie!” the caption read.

The two white Barbies wore their hair pulled back into ponytails. The black Barbie had dark cornrows on one side of her head and curly blond hair on the other.

The hairstyle prompted much head-shaking, confusion and even anger on social media, even as some applauded Mattel for continuing its diversity efforts.

In March, for International Women's Day, Mattel introduced three new collectible Barbie dolls based on historical "Inspiring Women," including Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose work was spotlighted in the 2016 movie "Hidden Figures."

Like the doll's hairstyle, this debate has two sides.

"Lol barbie ... this is actually just embarrassing," tweeted one critic. "Like they wanted to fit every black hair style on one head. The cornrows, the dyed weave, body wave bundles. Why? Why? Why? Just ask any black person and they will tell you, that you don’t do this anywhere. ANYWHERE!"

On the other hand, some people didn't get the fuss.

"Im black and mexican. And I love it!" one woman wrote on Instagram. "I think the loom is supposed to be edgy. A lot of girls in my high school wore their hair like that, kinda punk."

“Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss recognized that hairstyle. It used to be hers.

"I wasn't gonna post this pic but since I have a sense of humor I decided to give y’all a good laugh! I saw people roasting the hair on the Barbie pic today & I laughed so hard because I had this same hairstyle before. This was my real hair, no weave," she wrote on Instagram.

"Still," wrote Allure magazine, "the general consensus was negative, so time will tell if Mattel takes that into consideration in the future."

Barbie's future — and past — is what Hulu's "Tiny Shoulders" explores with historians, feminist leaders including Gloria Steinem, and the women at Mattel charged with bringing Barbie up to speed for the 21st century, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Clearly, the plastic fashion doll still shoulders hair-raising expectations.

"We have a very complicated relationship with our own femininity, and it's not just us individually," the film's writer and director, Andrea Nevins, told the Times..

"Society still has a very complicated and unsolved idea of what women should be today. That's captured in this doll. She carries a lot on her tiny shoulders. I think we all do."

Mattel's iconic doll, whose small waist and long legs have been criticized for creating unrealistic expectations for girls, will be sold with three new bodies — curvy, tall and petite. Barbie will also be more diverse, coming in seven skin tones.