Italian Vogue‘s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani made a bold statement when she featured only black models in the 2008 July issue, and follows it up with a feature on Black Barbies in the 2009 July supplementary issue celebrating the 50th anniversary of Barbie.
“Barbie has been an icon for wole generations which is why I really wanted to give a strong sign in step with the times, and dedicate the anniversary issue to Black Barbie,” Sozzani said.
Introduced in 1967, the first black doll from the Barbie collection was Francie, a friend to Barbie. The first Black Barbie wasn’t introduced until 1980. This fall Barbie launches a line of black dolls called the So in Style collection with more ethnic or “black” facial features such as fuller lips, distnctive cheekbones, a wider nose and curlier hair.
The 2008 all-black Italian Vogue served as an example of the virtual exemption of black models in the beauty and fashion industry and the need for diversity. So what will Vogue‘s Black Barbie issue achieve? Perhaps, the elevation of black female aesthetics to Barbie’s iconic status. Or at least young girls like Sasha and Malia will have some great dolls to play that will reinforce their self-image as beautiful black women.