Should Black Women Stop Calling Themselves Barbie?


Back when I rocked knicker-knockers on the ends of my pigtails Barbies were my toy of choice. My Barbie collection was nuts. They vacationed in their mobile home, drove a drop top pink corvette, lived in the dream home and wore the flyest clothes on the block. But that was when I was eight years old.

I haven’t checked for Barbie in a minute.

Nicki Minaj’s “it’s Barbie bitch” picked up where Lil’ Kim left off. Nicki’s legion of impressionable young female fans happily oblige to her playful term of endearment, a.k.a. Barbs. Her adolescent fans aren’t the only ones referring to themselves as Barbies.

On Monday the one and only Queen Bee celebrated her 37th birthday and released a promo shoot shot by photographer Michael Antonio. Of course she posed as none other than Black Barbie. In a subtler than usual image, Kim captured Barbie rocking a long blonde wig with Chinese bangs. Her perfect manicured nails were a simple pink and white. And as Photoshopped as her face was, it actually looked more like late ’90’s Kim pre-several trips to the plastic surgeon. It was the blue eyes that caused me to clutch my pearls.

Kim was back to claim her reign, but instead of dropping lyrical ether, she wanted us all to remember she was the first “Black Barbie dressed in Bvlgari.”

Commenters over on a popular entertainment blog were less shocked about her blue eyes; instead they raved about how beautiful she looked. Ironically it took a photo with her rocking a blonde wig and blue eyes for folks to think Kim was beautiful again. A few referenced Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye and someone got to the bottom of what I really wanted to know:

“I’m so tired of these grown ass women calling themselves Barbies, dolls, etc. #lame.”

And in response:

“I used to say this too, but I’ll take them calling themselves Barbie instead of bad bitches.”

Is hip-hop so homogenous and commercialized that female emcees have to either subscribe to this ridiculous Barbie notion or posture as a hardcore gangster to be mainstream? I need there to be a middle ground.

I get it. Kim rightfully has beef with Nicki for biting her style without giving her due props 1,476 times. Her promo picture was a form of expressing that she was the first to ever do it. I would hope though, at 37, one would have evolved beyond the concept of a plastic doll.

Kim and Nicki’s beauty was actually more aligned with perfection before they attempted to resemble Barb. I wonder where in society we’ve gone wrong where grown Black women are infatuated with looking like something so inauthentic and unattainable. It’s even worse when some women believe blonde hair and blue eyes is the superior standard of beauty. And what is this teaching little Black girls about their beautiful brown bodies, their kinky curls and their brown eyes? Are they not good enough the way they were born?

Sure, it’s just entertainment to some. But at what cost? For the sake of our girls, and because it’s just played out, kind of like the term ‘played out,’ can we let the Black Barbie mimicking die a slow death?

Benè Viera is a New York City based freelance journalist who muses on music, race, feminism, politics, pop-culture and more for various outlets including Clutch, Essence and MadameNoire. Follow her on Twitter @WrittenByBene.