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Black Barbie documentary on Netflix highlights the importance of representation

Founder of ShePower Leadership Academy says Barbies set the foundation of beauty and success for girls
Posted at 3:28 PM, Jul 09, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Black Barbie: A Documentary started streaming on Netflix on Juneteenth, detailing the creation of the first black Barbie.

  • Video shows black Barbie dolls and ShePower Leadership Academy
  • Isis Mckenzie-Johnson, former Miss Black California, was featured in the Black Barbie documentary and talks about what it means to her to see herself represented in the dolls.
  • Arleana Waller, the founder of ShePower Leadership Academy, says the documentary showed the progress black women and the work still needed to achieve equality.

She Power Leadership Academy welcomes young women of color to rooms like this to empower and inspire success, but the founder tells me, that empowerment starts at an early age with something as simple as a doll.
While this may look like just a doll to some...

“She’s a corporate woman, beautiful face, dark Nubian skin, and she is stunning to me,” Isis Mckenzie-Johnson, former Miss Black California, said, describing one of her black Barbie dolls.

To her, it means so much more than that.

“She made me see possibility, and anytime I think about it, I wonder what my life would have been like if there weren’t any black Barbies,” Mckenzie-Johnson said through tears.

Mackenzie-Johnson shared her experience with her dolls in a new documentary Black Barbie which premiered on Netflix on Juneteenth, detailing the creation of the first black Barbie doll.

“When we define beauty, what do we think about, I mean for anyone, it starts with Barbie," Arleana Waller, the founder, and CEO of She Power Leadership Academy, an organization that works to empower young women of color, said.

Waller watched the documentary and tells me representation in toys like this shows black girls they are beautiful and can be successful too.

“So, of course, Barbie speaks about our beauty, but I think the story speaks about our culture," Waller said. "If we are going to have change, we have to take the responsibility of opening the door for the younger black woman that’s coming behind us.”

The original Barbie doll came out on March 9, 1959.

It took more than 20 years for Mattel to release the first black and Hispanic dolls named Barbie, and while Mackenzie-Johnson has seen progress, she says there’s more to do to increase representation for women of color.

“Whether they are in print, television, radio, film, we are adding more diversity to it so our children can see more of themselves in those things," Mckenzie-Johnson added.

If you’re interested in watching Black Barbie, you can stream the full documentary on Netflix.

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