Shonda Rhimes, Pat McGrath honored with their own Barbies

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In honor of International Women’s Day, the iconic doll brand has launched a campaign to increase access to female role models.

As we celebrate the historic contributions of women around the world this month, Mattel is making its own tribute, announcing a new, multifaceted campaign “to inspire the next generation of leaders and dreamers.” Produced in anticipation of International Women’s Day on March 8, the campaign includes a series of Barbie Role Models,” according to a release.

Photo: Mattel
Photo: Mattel

Among the 12 global leaders and changemakers honored with one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls in their likeness are super-producer Shonda Rhimes and beauty impresario Pat McGrath, each of whom has proven a trailblazer in her respective field. The full list includes pioneers in tech, wellness, STEM, education, and more.

The full list includes:

  • Shonda Rhimes (United States) – Founder of American Television Production Company Shondaland

  • Ari Horie (United States/Japan) – Founder & CEO, Women’s Startup Lab and Women’s Startup Lab Impact Foundation

  • Pat McGrath (United Kingdom) – Makeup Artist and Founder of Pat McGrath Labs

  • Melissa Sariffodeen (Canada) – CEO and Co-Founder of Canada Learning Code and Ladies Learning Code

  • Adriana Azuara (Mexico) – Founder of All4Spas

  • Doani Emanuela Bertain (Brazil) – Teacher and Founder of Sala 8

  • Jane Martino (Newton) (Australia) – Chair and Co-Founder of Smiling Minds

  • Lan Yu (China) – Fashion Designer

  • Butet Manurung (Indonesia) – Founder and Director of SOKOLA

  • Sonia Peronaci (Italy) – Founder of Italian food website, ‘GialloZafferano’

  • Tijen Onaran (Germany) – CEO and Founder of Global Digital Women and Co-Founder of ACI Diversity Consulting

  • Lena Mahfouf (France) – Digital Creator, Videographer and Author of ‘Always More’

“We know that children are inspired by what they see around them, which is why it’s so important for young girls to see themselves reflected in role models who’ve daringly pushed past roadblocks and overcome the Dream Gap to become the brave women they are today,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel. “This International Women’s Day, we’re proud to honor 12 global trailblazing women to help empower the next generation of female leaders by sharing their stories.”

A doll might seem trivial to some, but Rhimes offered her own perspective on its significance, via the brand. “The idea that there are dolls out there that can look like you and feel like you and give you the ability to imagine yourself in a different world, in a different way, in a way that maybe you only secretly dreamed, or thought was impossible in real life, I think that is incredibly important,” she said. “As a storyteller, I think everything begins with your imagination. The way that you begin to imagine yourself really does start the story of who you are as a person.”

But while it’s delightful to see each of these incredible women recognized with her own doll, the impetus behind the ongoing campaign is founded in Mattel-funded research by NYU’s Cognitive Development Lab. Its study found “girls aged 5-10 are less likely to raise their hand for leadership positions, such as stepping up to be in charge of a group activity, and also perceive social backlash from volunteering to take on more responsibility.” However, researchers also found that girls became more confident and assertive when exposed to female role models—and strikingly, boys did, too.

“It’s obvious to me that you cannot be what you cannot see,” said Rhimes. “And if you don’t see anybody who looks like you, who seems like you, who does anything like you, then you start to believe that you can’t do it either.”

“When young children feel afraid to take on leadership positions, it’s okay to acknowledge the fact that you’re afraid and it’s okay to be afraid to do something,” she added. “What makes it important is that you try to do it anyway.”

Mattel has identified this dearth of confidence in young girls as “The Dream Gap,” launching the Barbie Dream Gap Project in 2018. A “multi-year global initiative created to raise awareness around limiting factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential,” Barbie has committed over one million dollars to nonprofits invested in advancing gender equality, starting in girlhood.

Through a multi-faceted campaign to increase access to female role models, support female entrepreneurs, and partner with like-minded global programs, Barbie is committed to helping build the confidence and reinforce the limitless potential of girls everywhere.

But there’s more: According to Barbie, the brand will be celebrating this International Women’s Day in several other capacities:

ENTERING A FIRST-EVER GLOBAL BARBIE DREAM GAP PROJECT PARTNERSHIP with Inspiring Girls International, a charitable organization dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting them with female role models.

LAUNCHING A CURATED SHOP FROM DIVERSE, FEMALE-FOUNDED BRANDS as @BarbieStyle™’s first-ever collaborative shopping platform.

CELEBRATING BARBIE IN NFT ART COLLECTION in partnership with Boss Beauties, a female-led global initiative that creates opportunities for girls and women through cutting-edge collaborations. A Barbie NFT will be auctioned by Boss Beauties between March 11-12th via OpenSea, with proceeds benefiting the Barbie Dream Gap Project.

Credit: Mattel

As the leading and most recognized brand for girls, Barbie is also hoping to lead the way in fighting gender inequality from childhood on.

“Being a leader is never easy. It’s never going be easy no matter how old you get, no matter where you go in life,” said Rhimes. “If you can start being a leader now, even when it feels hard, you can be a leader for the rest of your life.”

For more information on the Barbie Dream Gap Project, visit Barbie.com/DreamGap. Follow @BarbieStyle on Instagram to view the curated collection and BarbieStyle.com to purchase.

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).

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