Culture & Entertainment

Black Barbies for Canada

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Black Barbies for Canada

Queen Cee's Black Barbies Guest post by Kristen Oelschlagel I was one of those little girls with a ton of Barbie dolls, and all of the accessories to go with them—Barbie cars, every outfit imaginable, even a Barbie Ferris Wheel. Being a brunette, I remember favouring the dolls with brown hair instead of the typical blonde hair, blue-eyed variety. Like every little girl, I wanted my doll to look like me. A woman by the name of Queen Cee wanted the same for her daughter. Unfortunately, being a black Canadian made the search for Barbies that look like her daughter that much harder. When I spoke to Queen Cee I was immediately brought back to my own childhood—if I thought it was hard finding a brunette Barbie doll, looking for one with a different skin colour must have been near impossible. The mother of four from Hamilton, ON, started looking for black Barbies about a year ago, when her daughter was five years old.  She learned she could only buy them online from the U.S., so she contacted Mattel, the Barbie manufacturer. “From talking to the company in Canada, they put me in touch with the U.S.," says Queen Cee. "They told me the 'So In Style' Barbie dolls, the ethnic line of dolls, aren’t even manufactured anymore, and they weren’t ever marketed to Canada.” So Queen Cee bought her black Barbies from the U.S. Then she went one step further, and reimagined the dolls for her daughter. She took the black dolls and personalized them so that they looked more like real black women. What started as a project for her daughter quickly turned into something she wanted to do for all black and biracial girls. She says it’s a time consuming task, but that it’s worth it when she sees a little girl’s face after receiving a doll that looks like her. “It could be curling their hair, cornrowing, single braids, twists or sometimes I even go a higher route, which is totally taking out the Barbie’s hair and re-routing it with a more natural texture that resembles a black woman’s hair." It's been a number of years since I've played with Barbies, but I had assumed the doll would reflect today's diverse ethnicities. That black Barbies aren't available in Canada in 2014 is, frankly, shocking. “We have a huge buying network here in Canada," says Queen Cee. "Because we’re so diverse, Canada is the perfect place to have access to this kind of doll. When I think of Canada, I think of multiculturalism. People can come celebrate their cultures, their differences and their traditional values.” Today, Queen Cee sells her dolls to the public through social media. She posts pictures of everything she makes on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr, and she's also in the midst of starting an Etsy shop. Since starting the project last fall, Queen Cee has gotten a great response from many girls and parents. “It’s not just black moms, it’s also moms who have biracial children. I had a girl who was very sporty, so I made her doll a little tracksuit with her favourite colour, got sneakers for it and braided her hair. It was like a mini version of her.” What’s next for Queen Cee? She would love for Mattel to hear her story, in the hopes of inspiring a relationship where they could work together. “I will continue my advocacy for better representation and access to black dolls here in Canada,” she says. But until that happens, Queen Cee will continue to reinvent Barbie dolls for black and biracial girls across Canada.
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Black Barbies for Canada

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