March 9, 1959 is an important date in toy world. It was the date Barbie Millicent Roberts was “born”, as in the fashion doll, created by Ruth Handler, made her debut as both a blonde and brunette at the American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York City.
Sixty years later this past weekend, Barbie returned to New York City to celebrate her 60th birthday! Mattel, the company that’s manufactured the doll since ’59, threw a shindig in the form of a free pop-up shop and exhibit in the heart of New York City’s Soho on 505 Broadway.
Shockingly, because of the kind of fame and large fan-base Barbie has acquired in the past six decades, “Barbie 60” was held for only one day which was Saturday, March 9, 2019, and from 10 AM to 7 PM. Tickets that offered priority entry were offered on Eventbrite in late February, and the tickets reportedly “sold out” the same day.
On the day of, hopeful fans, without a ticket, waited in line to get into the pop-up that was said to offer a fun, interactive, and immersive look into the history of Barbie. It was slight mayhem outside, but no one behaved out of order. There was just a heavy sense of eagerness, as among the waiting, some wore Barbie-inspired outfits and logo-wear, lots of adults were there with children and pre-teens.
Thankfully, I was able to get in a little after 5:30 PM, and it was easy-peasy from there as the Barbie attendees and ushers were friendly and excited for all of us.
At the end of the pop-up, after attendees took photos in “Last Generation of Firsts” booth, girls twelve and under received a free Barbie doll as a thank you for visiting. While for the rest of adults, it was our choice to whip up the wallet for what the small shop had on display to purchase, such as special edition Barbies and merch, at reasonable prices. I bought a Barbie Signature doll, with the blonde Afro, styled by Marni Senofonte for $30, and a Barbie beanie for $12.99. I was beyond satiated with my goodies. (I had been eyeing the Marni doll the past week on the Barbie website! I’m a little obsessed!)
The one con about “Barbie 60”: I wish the event was held for the entire weekend and for longer hours so that more fans could get in. At one point, Barbie’s official Instagram account wrote that they were no longer accepting attendees, via their Instagram story and while I had already experienced the pop-up, when I read that later that night, I felt bad for those that missed out.
On a much lighter and higher note, “Barbie 60” was a super fun, really cute, and thoughtful tribute to her legacy as an influential doll and toy. Leaving out the more interesting aspects of her beginning, such as how Barbie is Handler’s amalgamation of the sultry German doll and comic strip character Bild Lilli and paper dolls, it spoke proudly of her reach as a (albeit, controversial; as explored in the Hulu documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie) beacon for girls and women worldwide to respond with verve and drive when reaching for the stars through hard work and belief, and acts of self-love. This endeavor on Mattel’s part is more evident than ever with their Sheroes collection, the Dream Gap Project, fantastic Barbie vlogs on YouTube, and Inspiring Women that honor women and their trailblazing and altruistic accomplishments.
And while this isn’t a con but rather an afterthought, I wish “Barbie 60” had a wall showcasing their Dolls of the World series that I remember from the 1990s. But at least their “We Are Barbie” presentation covered that ground, as it was a beautiful, exceedingly adorable showcase of the diversification of the Barbie in recent years. And speaking of the ’90s, where was Totally Hair Barbie! We also needed an iconic Malibu Barbie section.
Of course, it would’ve been a joy to see Colored Francie, the first Black doll by Mattel that debuted in 1967, and then re-imagined as Christie in 1968. Christie was re-modeled again between 1979-1980, in effort to be more reflective of African-American features; and she was joined by Theresa in ’80, the first Latina Barbie.
Below are photos I took at “Barbie 60.” I’m so glad I was able to be there and revel in the excitement. I still got a hold of my Barbies from childhood, and I treasure them very much.
A few years ago, my mother and I made a trip to Montreal, Canada to observe the Barbie Expo, another exhibit of Barbies, wall to wall, and celebratory of her icon status and fashion. It is fab! So, it only felt right to visit her American fete!
Happy Birthday, bb!! #YouCanBeAnything #Barbie60
-C. Shardae Jobson (selfie-based photos, and a few more from the pop-up, will posted on my Instagram page).