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Barbie to feature in this year's SI Swimsuit issue



By: Mae Anderson

NEW YORK (AP) - After 50 years of debate over her unattainably perfect figure, Barbie now is unapologetic about her tiny waist and endless legs.

To prove it? The doll, which is made by Mattel, is flaunting her frame in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's 50th anniversary issue that's hitting stands on Tuesday. She'll be featured alongside supermodels like Christie Brinkley and Brooklyn Decker as part of a campaign called "unapologetic."

"As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks, posing ... gives Barbie ... and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are," Mattel said in a statement.

The campaign is a departure for the 55-year old doll, which has been both beloved as a plaything and criticized as an unrealistic standard of beauty for decades.

In fact, Barbie has faced scrutiny for everything from her chiseled facial features and disproportionately small waist to her "life choices." And last year, an artist renewed controversy over Barbie's effect on body image after an artist posted pictures of the more meaty physique the doll would have if she had the figure of an average 19-year-old.

Mattel has tried to change Barbie with the times. The doll has gone through several reinventions, including 150 careers, from architect to lifeguard, and a brief publicity-stunt breakup with her boyfriend Ken.

But this latest move, which again sparked online debate on Wednesday about body image issues, comes as Mattel tries to revive interest in the doll icon. Barbie is worth an estimated $1.3 billion in sales for the toymaker and she's the No. 1 toy brand.

But Barbie has lost some popularity in recent years to edgier toys like Mattel's Monster High dolls with their tattoos and neon hair. In fact, Barbie has had declining sales in five of the last six quarters, with sales falling 13 percent in the most recent quarter.

Mattel hopes the "unapologetic" campaign will boost Barbie's image.

As part of the campaign, there will be a collector Sports Illustrated Barbie doll, an event at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Beach House on Monday, a billboard in New York's Times Square and @Barbie tweets with the hashtag "unapologetic" on Twitter. Barbie also will appear on the cover of 1,000 issues in an advertising "cover wrap" for the New York Toy Fair, which starts Sunday.

Spending for the campaign was undisclosed.

"Unapologetic" is a word that Mattel executives use internally, said Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president at Mattel. But she said this is the first time the company is "engaging in a conversation publicly."

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day said Barbie fits in with the swimsuit issues' "message of empowerment" for women.

But Allen Adamson, a branding expert, said he's not sure a feature in Sport's Illustrated's swimsuit issue is the right strategy for the brand.

"The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is one step away from Playboy magazine," he said. "It is potentially sending the wrong message to girls."

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iphonerulez February 13 2014 at 2:15 AM

I was just hoping she wasn't outing herself. I get tired of hearing that crap.

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Rabbi Moishe February 12 2014 at 9:40 PM

Looking that good at her age, I think it's pretty obvious that she has had major plastic surgery.

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Chloe Smith February 12 2014 at 11:43 PM

That is a great cover, really cute. On a side note, I can't believe I cut my Barbie doll's hair when I was little. They would be worth a lot of money today if I didn't give them shag haircuts. What was I thinking?

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turboflame41 February 13 2014 at 12:07 AM

I love you Barbie!!

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turboflame41 February 13 2014 at 12:06 AM

I love you Barbie!

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Magikal Rhine River February 12 2014 at 11:56 PM

I still have my Barbie/Ken/Midge/Skipper dolls from when I was a six. When I was 8, my two brother, Mom and Dad took a month long trip from Carson, CA all the way up to Alaska. Was in our camper, an Open Road with a Ford White Truck. Our ice box was kept cold by a block of ice. There was not a shower nor a TOILET. Port-a-potty in a little bag was in the tiny closet. All three of us saved our allowance (I was 6, my middle brother was 11, my oldest brother was 15). One day I'm going to write a book about our trip. Reason for mentioning? On July 5th, it was my birthday. I received a Skipper Closet, Skipper herself and other accessories. My Mom made doll clothes for them and a matching dress for me. Yea, I was well loved by my family and Our Lord has watched over us. Am not exactly sure what they look like now, been in garage since I was married 33 years ago. Go Barbie

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Hi February 12 2014 at 8:03 PM

One thing for sure Barbie has on a decent bathing suit.

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turboflame41 February 13 2014 at 12:07 AM

I love you Barbie!!

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Alan February 12 2014 at 10:20 PM

I own a few shares of stock in Mattel, and to be honest, I am glad sales are dropping. This doll is supposed to be an American Icon, but like all other cheap companies, Mattel is making them in China. As far as this stockholder is concerned, an American Icon doll should be made in America. The workers that these cheap companies fire in order to outsource jobs overseas are the very ones that would buy the dolls for their daughters. These US manufacturers cut their own collective throats by firing the same folks that buy their products. If I ever see boatloads of Chinese coming to the US to buy Barbie dolls, I might change my mind.

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1 reply
Morgan Alan February 14 2014 at 1:21 AM

Not counting prototypes, Barbie dolls have never really been made in America. They were originally made in Japan. Also, Mattel has been trying to court the Chinese market for years, but the Chinese don't really do toys. Especially not families who can afford Barbie.

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turboflame41 February 13 2014 at 12:09 AM

I love you Barbie!

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1 reply
wlh1923 turboflame41 February 13 2014 at 2:07 AM

Mental illness is treatable turbo

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