Barbie to feature in this year's SI Swimsuit issue
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 28: Barbie-dolls with the Barbie Collection 2014 are shown at the Press-Preview of the Nuremberg International Toy Fair 2014 on January 28, 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany. The Barbie Collection 2014 was presented by Designer Guido Maria Kretschmer. The Nuremberg International Toy Fair 2014 is the worlds biggest toy fair and is opendend to visitors from January 29th to February 3rd. (Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)
Barbie dolls from all different eras are lined up for the 50th anniversary of Barbie.
A display of Barbie dolls is shown at the Mattel exhibit at the New York Toy Fair.
Stephanie Torres, of Chicago, stocks up on Barbie dolls.
Barbie video girl edition
In this Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, photo, Barbie dolls, a Mattel product, are displayed in a Walmart store in Robinson Township, Pa.
Barbie and Ken dolls from Mattel are displayed at the American International Toy Fair.
A Barbie doll wearing a Dior dress is on display next to a Dior handbag as part of an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Barbie in The Netherlands, at Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, the Museum of Bags and Purses, in Amsterdam, Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014. Fifty dolls are on display together with 1500 bags and purses, part of the museum's total collection of 4500 bags and purses. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
FILE - In this July 11, 2011 file photo, Barbie dolls sit on the shelf at Woodbury Mountain Toys in Montpelier, Vt. Toy maker Mattel Inc. said Monday, April 16, 2012, their first-quarter profit dropped 53 percent, pulled down by costs tied to an acquisition and lower sales for Barbie and Hot Wheels. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
Imitation Barbie dolls dressed in traditional Bolivian carnival costumes stand in a doll making workshop in El Alto, Bolivia, Friday Jan. 21, 2011. The dolls will be sold at the annual Alasita Fair, a three week fair of miniature items in La Paz beginning late January. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
** COMMERCIAL IMAGE ** In this photograph taken by AP Images for Mattel, Barbie Collector celebrates the 30th anniversary of their Dolls of the World Collection with the debut of the Statue of Liberty Barbie Doll, part of the new Landmark Collection, Tuesday, June 15, 2010, on Ellis Island in New York. In addition to the new doll collection, the first ever exhibit of Barbie dolls will be on display at Ellis Island from June 16 through August 15, 2010, representing 40 nations from around the world. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Mattel)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005 file photo, Ashley Cebollero, of New York, looks around in front of a bank of Barbie Fashion Fever dolls in New York. Debuting in 1959, Mattelâs 11.5-inch blond fashion doll has long held the No. 1 doll title with an estimated $1.3 billion in annual sales. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, fIle)
Barbie dolls sit on shelves of the Mattel Outlet Store, Monday, Jan. 31, 2005, in El Segundo, Calif. Mattel Inc.'s fourth-quarter profit rose 33 percent on the strength of the world's largest toy maker's overall sales, favorable currency exchange rates and a one-time gain from a federal tax return settlement. Its shares rose more than 6 percent. Worldwide sales of Mattel's flagship Barbie doll brand were down 1 percent, while sales of the company's Other Girls brand rose 1 percent. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
ROME, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 11: Clothes for Barbie Dolls exhibition during the 'I Love B' as a part of the Vogue Fashion Night Out of Rome at Galleria Vittoria on September 11, 2014 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
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."