In the beginning, God created light, heaven, earth, water and so forth. But then in 1959, the All Mighty made Barbie.
She and I share the same birthday, which explains the strong connection between us.
Now, many wonderful events, inventions and people occurred before Barbie, like the Great Wall of China and velcro, to name a few, but Barbie was monumental in ways that go beyond a 2,000-year-old wall and a material that sticks to itself.
She taught us valuable lessons about fashion, relationships and social etiquette and family. Barbie was our first important life teacher.
We all had a Barbie, and like any great creation, she has evolved for 58 years and counting. I’m still evolving but without as many shoes as Barbie.
Like all fascinating women, Barbie has a backstory — she was invented in February 1959, same month and year of my birth, by Ruth Handler and was introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City.
Barbie was made as a teen fashion doll, but became more of a toy for young girls, receiving criticism and compliments. For instance, Barbie’s measurements, if calculated for a real person, were impossible: 36-18-38, and she was thought of as a sex symbol with her womanly body and sensual face.
However, Barbie also taught young girls about relationships, first with Ken, created in 1961, and named after Ruth’s son.
Girls were supposed to create Barbie’s personality with a variety of her clothes and accessories, but she began to take on a persona all her own.
Competitors like Jem couldn’t begin to compare because Barbie’s name and image was stuck in the memory of American youth. Mattel tried to improve Barbie’s image by creating Midge, (1963), Barbie’s best friend, and Skipper (1964), Barbie’s little sister.
But here is where Barbie transcends from a doll into a life lesson instructor/coach. She taught us important concepts, thought groundbreaking in the 1960s, that are relevant today:
1. Family is fundamental.
2. Although many girls have the same name, you are still an individual.
3. It is cool for women to have many careers.
4. You can have love, family and a career at the same time.
5. Don’t be a slave to fashion; be its master.
Today Barbie is universal, representing 40 nationalities, 180 careers and four body types, including Puerto Rican Barbie, Statue of Liberty Barbie, Tattoo Barbie and SuperGirl Barbie, to name a few. Barbie has influenced America, and women all over the world, in ways that go beyond a plastic doll.
I started to learn about myself and understand my place in the world because of her. Barbie took away my anxiety as a young girl, reducing the complexities of the world into simple ideas.
Life made sense to me because of her. Where would we/I be without Barbie?
Val Valdez is a Herald correspondent.