Barbie: V.I.B.E

Join the National Black Doll Museum in 2020 as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Black Barbie & her creator, Ms. Louvenia (Kitty) Black Perkins.

 A V.I.B.E {Visual in Black Elegance} explores the evolution of Black Barbie through a collection of more than four hundred dolls and highlights various designers including OOAK fashion doll makeover artist , fashion lines, careers ,countries, and cultures, since her debut in 1980.  As part of this milestone, the museum is hosting several events throughout the summer, including participation in the Black Barbie documentary, workshops, fashion show and a Tea Talk & Tribute on Mother’s Day with her creator Ms. Louvenia (Kitty) Black Perkins.

Black Barbie 2020

The History

In 2019, Mattel celebrated 60 amazing years of the iconic, every-evolving fashion doll known to the world as Barbie. For a toy to remain so beloved for more than half a century is truly an amazing feat. Not even Barbie creator Ruth Handler could have guessed when she started with a simple paper doll prototype that Barbie would take the world by storm, unleashing the imaginations and dreams of untold millions of fans. From the catwalk runways of Paris to public school hallways Barbie provided an outlet to inspire , explore, cultivate new possibilities and create success.

However, the launch of Barbie in 1959 coincided with the Jim Crow era. Though a new, powerful civil rights movement was beginning to take shape, Mattel, like the whole country, struggled with the subject of race. Questions of representation were far from the company’s mind. Simply put, Barbie didn’t come in Black. As a result, Black girls were met at the toy store with yet another image telling them they didn’t fit society’s beauty ideal. Instead of inspiring young Black girls, Barbie added to their self-doubt: “If only I could be like Barbie… if only my hair was straight, if only I was lighter, if only my nose was thinner…”

As with society, change at Mattel came slowly. The introduction of Barbie’s cousin “Francie” in 1966 was followed a year later by the “Colored Francie” version of the doll. In 1968, Barbie’s black friend Christie was introduced to the line. And in 1969 we saw the first Black celebrity Barbie-style doll “Julia” – based on the TV character played by Diahann Caroll. . Yet, it wasn’t until 1980, more than twenty years after the first Barbie was initially launched, that Mattel created an actual African American Barbie doll.

“Black , Bold & Dynamite with her own style” was how she was marketed. 
This first Black doll ever named ” Barbie” was created by Kitty Black Perkins, an innovative doll artist who would go on to become the first African American chief designer of Fashion & Concepts for Mattel.

Forty years after Perkins blazed the trail, we are witnessing a true evolution of the Barbie brand. Barbie now comes in more than 7 body shapes, 11 skin tones and 40 hairstyles. This beautiful diversity and inclusive spirit can be attributed in large part to the woman who started it all back in 1980.

And so in 2020, with gratitude and admiration, it’s no surprise that Barbie lovers of all walks of life celebrate the forty year career and creative legacy of the legendary Louvenia “Kitty Black -Perkins.

Creating The First Black Barbie