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News > World

US Toy Giant Mattel Faces Criticism After Misrepresenting Frida Kahlo's Appearance

  • An image of Mattel's Frida Kahlo Doll from its

    An image of Mattel's Frida Kahlo Doll from its "Inspiring Women Series." | Photo: Mattel

Published 7 March 2018

Depicting a radical artist like Frida as a doll appears to be a challenging endeavor. 

American toy giant, Mattel has come up with a new doll in the image of iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, however some observers say it is far removed from how the artist actually looked.

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The run-of-the-mill doll version of the deceased Mexican artist fails to depict the iconic unibrow and other body hair which were an integral part of her appearance and distinguished her from the crowd.

Depicting a radical artist like Frida, an anti-capitalist artist who has resisted the canon of beauty throughout her life, as a doll appears to be a challenging endeavor. 

Born in 1907, Kahlo was most known for her self-portraits, in which she often spilled her pain and experiences, mainly as a consequence of an accident in her youth in which her column and several of her bones suffered fractures and her tumultuous relationship with muralist, Diego Rivera. 

"Mattel has a new line of Barbies, called Role Models. One of them is supposed to be Frida Kahlo, no wheelchair, no accident, operation or polio scars, and no unibrow. #MoreRoleModels  @Mattel #DisTheOscars #RepresentationNotErasure," a Twitter user pointed out.

Another user on the social media platform pointed out: "Frida Kahlo vs. 'Barbie Frida' The good thing is that they recognize that she was against the canons of beauty," adding: "I am not against the character (I feel it is overrated); If not against the ignorance and stupidity of people who "follow" it by fashion...."

"In a shocking turn of events barbie wants to add feminism to its brand while still aggressively adhering to western beauty standards," another said.

After facing severe criticism for the lack of diverse representations in its toys, mostly dolls, Mattel has tried to steer away from its trademark of white and thin-framed dolls.

Recently, the company initiated a new Barbie "Inspiring Women" line featuring a gamut of women achievers, from entrepreneurs and social activists to artists and scientists to show the company cares about representation, Kahlo's doppelgänger was part of this series along with 13 other women, including Amelia Earhart (American aviation pioneer) and Katherine Johnson (influential NASA mathematician).

The historical dolls are part of Barbie's "Inspiring Women" line. (Photo: Courtesy of Mattel)

"As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honoring its largest lineup of role models timed to International Women’s Day, because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see," the senior vice president and general manager of Barbie, Lisa McKnight, said, according to Buzzfeed.  

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"Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie, and we are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything," McKnight added. 

The 18 dolls, which were announced were announced strategically ahead of the International Women's Day, belong to 10 nationalities. They include Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, wife of the deceased "crocodile hunter," Steve Irwin, the Italian soccer player Sara Gama, American snowboarder Chole Kim, British boxer Nicola Adams and Chinese volleyball player Hui Ruoqi.

Also included are Spanish designer Vicky Martin Berrocal, German-Iranian designer Leyla Piedayesh, Chinese actress and dancer Xiaotong Guan and Yuan Yuan Tan; the French chef Hélène Darroze; the Polish journalist Martyna Wojciechowska and the American filmmaker Patty Jenkins.

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