Black Barbie's cornrows have the internet confused: 'Do better'

Over the weekend, a group of women got together to watch the premiere of a new Hulu documentary. A photo of the moment was shared on Instagram and has since sparked a major debate. OK: Let’s clarify. The documentary is about Barbie, and the three women watching were dolls.

Hulu premiered the documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie on April 27, and the Barbie Style Instagram account promoted it with a picture of three Barbie dolls sitting in front of a computer. “Movie night with my girls to watch the @Hulu premiere of the new @Barbie documentary, Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie!” Barbie captioned the post.

Two of the dolls are white and the third is black, and her hairstyle has garnered a lot of attention. Half of the black Barbie’s head is dark and cornrowed, whereas the other half is loose, blond, and voluminous. The other dolls have light, straight hair gathered into low ponytails. It’s hard not to notice the difference, and it’s polarized social media.

“Wow!! I love it,” one follower commented on the Instagram post. “Personally, I like that you guys worked for more styles for your Barbies. Although some people don’t care for it, plenty of people do relate to it and find it beautiful. Thank you for the effort ❤️,” wrote another. “Y’all hating on that black Barbie but her hair is bomb,” someone else commented.

Even as some are loving the diversity in this group of gal pals, most commenters are not happy with the black Barbie’s hairstyle at all. “Finish the hairstyle. Idc whether it’s a trend or not. Or why not put an Afro or black hair … why she gotta have blonde at least make it realistic,” a follower commented on Barbie’s Instagram post. “Of all the hairstyles and all the black women?! This?! THIS IS WHAT YOU GOT?!” said another. “DO BETTER,” one follower simply stated. “This is horrible!!!!!!! Yall need to stop!!!” someone else scolded. “Corn rows & a ratchet blonde weave why y’all playing in black Barbie’s face ?? Sis looks like her hair girl has an emergency and had to go,” wrote a Twitter user. “See this is the #bs we talking about. Who in THEE HELL did black Barbie’s hair like this Does anyone black work there @barbiestyle @barbie??? #ineedanswers #thisiswhywecantletitgo,” someone else asked. “They trying to say black girls hair is always some kind of weave ? smdh.”

Then there are those who are simply confused by the seemingly unfinished, two-tone look. “Why Black Barbie hair ain’t finish tho? #GetTheStrap,” rapper Lil Cutty pointed out on Twitter. “Hi umm… I’m gonna need an explanation pertaining to the black Barbie’s hair. Like… this is unacceptable. What is this. Who did this. Why. Who approved this. What were they drinking. Thanks in advance,” someone else pondered. “[T]hose ‘cornrows’ and the blonde hair… what is she supposed to be a black and mild edition barbie??”another user questioned. “Sooo sis was too late for the making of the movie so she couldn’t finish her hair ??” someone else joked. “Wha’s wrong with the black Barbie’s hair?!?! As a black girl… I am completely confused .”

While representation is great, the Style and Beauty Doctor Danielle Gray points out that it goes hand in hand with diversity, and that’s actually what’s missing in this one image. “One of the major reasons some representations of black women in the media (be it human or a doll) spark spirited debates is because black women aren’t (and haven’t been) at the forefront of media,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We get to see all facets of white women: rich white women, poor white women, skinny white women, big white women, beautiful white women, average white women, white women bosses, funny white women, conservative white women, etc., but when it comes to black women in the media, throughout history we’ve typically been served one type of black woman and it’s usually loud, obnoxious, and overly sexualized.” She believes this issue is bigger than Barbie; it has to do with the fact that black women deserve the same diversity when they are represented in the media, and this image doesn’t do that.

Gray personally doesn’t take issue with the hairstyle, but understands why others do. She shared her thoughts about it on Instagram.

“The loud, obnoxious ‘urban’ black woman stereotype has been used so much that many black women who don’t fit that stereotype reject it,” she says. If people weren’t so incensed by this particular overused and very specific depiction, Gray believes that they would have noticed the other diverse representations of black dolls on the Barbie page, which she’s a fan of. “There have been a multitude of black hairstyles displayed on the black dolls: Afro puffs, straight and sleek, big kinky blowouts, braids, etc.”

We’re guessing it’s the ones who didn’t notice this wide variety of hairstyles who were offended because they thought this hairstyle is completely inaccurate. “[E]very black woman does not wear there hair like that ! Thats for one and 2 to put that on a doll as a national platform to represent all black woman is offensive!!” someone declared on Instagram. “Please reconsider the design of the Black Barbie pictured in this photo. This is not a positive image,” another follower echoed. “No black woman would ever wear her hair like that,” another stated. “This is ridiculous why does the African American doll hair looks this way?? What crazy is the white dolls hair looks normal.”

This is what bothers Gray. “I hate that so many black women were commenting and alluding to the notion that the black doll ‘didn’t belong’ with the white dolls who had sleek pulled back hair,” she says. “The hairstyle isn’t my style, but there are black women who wear their hair like that and to conclude that they ‘don’t belong’ is wrong to me.” She believes that it perpetuates the line of thinking that you have to look a certain way to fit in.

Kandi Burruss of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is here to prove this hairstyle isn’t completely out of the blue, but that doesn’t mean she’s condoning Barbie’s decision to use it. She took to Instagram to point out that she rocked a near-identical hairstyle about 14 years ago. She shared an image of her look as proof, with the caption, “I wasn’t gonna post this pic but since I have a sense of humor I decided to give y’all a good laugh! I saw people roasting the hair on the Barbie pic today & I laughed so hard because I had this same hairstyle before. This was my real hair, no weave. It used to be blonde but my roots were black so when @paulabrittstyles braided the side it had a similar look to the Black Barbie in the pic y’all were talking about. .” And one Instagram user pointed out Burruss isn’t the only one. “Cassie, Jada, Lala, Kandi and so on has rock this style. ,”someone stated.

Many are in the middle and don’t understand why this has to be an issue at all. “I don’t see what the issue is, y’all say y’all want inclusion but want the Black dolls to have hair like the white ones? Black girls have different hair Barbie is embracing that, why can’t you?” someone tweeted. “Plenty of black women have this hair style. Y’all don’t want Barbie celebrating the diversity that is black hair?” said another Twitter user. One user pointed out the importance of a unique style being represented, whether you like it or not: “The Black Barbie With The Black/Blonde Hair Offended Me Until I Read So Many Comments About Little Black Girls Loving The Doll & Thinking Her Hair Was Cool. I’m Still Side eyeing MATEL, But At Least It Registered With OUR GIRLS.”

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