Bollywood Barbie

Barbie was all over the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai this year. The doll celebrated its 50th Anniversary by sponsoring the event. At first I thought it was the company’s obliviousness to irony that prompted the fashion show sponsorship, but then it all came together when I read this article last week.

You might have noticed that India has become more competitive in the global economy over the course of the past 10 years, and one change that is apparent to those of us who live here is an ever-growing middle class, which in turn gives way to an ever-growing number of Western companies trying to get their foot in the door of Indian markets. The Indian-owned company Toys N Joys already sells Barbie-like dolls that are adorned to accurately represent the country’s regional and ethnic diversity, but Mattel apparently wants in on the action. Though Mattel is pitching the Katrina Kaif-like doll to be India’s first Barbie, the company actually collaborated with Leo Toys to create an ‘Expressions of India’ series in 1996. (The Mattel brand name nearly doubles the price of what one would pay for the Toys N Joys dolls. Both are pictured here.) It has also created and sold several India-themed collectors’ dolls over the past thirty years.

What is telling in the Telegraph article I mentioned is how unproblematically it throws out (and then away) interesting tidbits like Kaif’s light skin (which it uncritically lauds as a “a classical type of Indian beauty”) being a result of mixed heritage; that Kaif is a London-born NRI who didn’t know how to sing, dance, or speak Hindi before she started acting in Bollywood; and that she nearly sank her film career before it started by exuding a ‘western’ sex appeal in her first Indian release. So this is the person Mattel chose to represent Indian women to the world? Uh-huh. Now I’m not saying that Kaif is any more or less Indian than Mattel’s first choice, the wildly popular Aishwariya Rai. I just wonder what it was about Rai that didn’t measure up to their historically Eurocentric standards. (After being mocked by the media, Rai now says that she was the one who declined the toy maker’s deal due to a busy schedule.)

Another point of interest is how Mattel is using feminism to sell the Bollywood Barbie® saying: “She allows girls to dream beyond and know that a woman has choices, having herself represented more than 100 careers in her lifetime. ” It will be interesting to see how the doll turns out—particularly as Kaif reportedly had a hand in the doll’s physical appearance and manner of dress—and how it is received in markets around the globe. The Bollywood Barbie® goes into production in September. 

by Mandy Van Deven
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6 Comments Have Been Posted


Ugh, talk about a possible step forward (taken by Toys and Joys) and a few steps back because of Mattel, AND made worse by the Telegraph article. I'm quite sure that the 'classic' Indian beauty is not about long legs and white features. Who are they kidding?!!


Katrina Kaif?!? WHY?!
Rani Mukherjee (pre-KJo asking her to lose a bunch of weight for KANK) barbie, please!

It doesn't even make sense that they'd get an NRI who's Hindi is constantly mocked to be the face of barbie, outside of fair skin, western sex appeal and the fact she's more desperate for the publicity than many other heroines.. Oh.
Argh, Mattel. Argh.

Ash is being replaced

Ash is being replaced everywhere...
Lux now has priyanka chopra, Naxshatra got katrina kaif, sonam has already, entered Lore'al, which is now considering Frieda Pinto, as their international Face. Rumour has it, the a certain brand of watch, is also taking Sonam as their new model/Ambassador.

So it comes as no surprise, that Mattel chose, Katrina over Ash.

Not all indians are dark - that's a stereotype!

People who insist on the typical Indian woman being very dark are simply not open to India's diversity in its people's looks. I know the stereotype Indian in most western minds is dark-skinned and short, but you have to understand India is an extremely diverse and large country that is also racially diverse. Just imagine, there are even Chinese-looking Indians that live in the eastern parts.
I agree that the Indian beauty ideal favors fair skin and Caucasian features far far more than other looks, disproportionately so, but that doesn't mean such people don't actually exist in India in a sizeable number. I myself don't favor distorted beauty ideals at all, I just want people to be aware of the fact that not every Indian woman belongs to the dark-skinned, short, dot-wearing, saree-clad stereotype that most people have in their heads. Bottom line; Kaif is really not Un-Indian looking or anything!

Well a lot of Indian women -

Well a lot of Indian women - and men and girls and boys - don't have light skin and it would be nice if an attempt at ethnic representation would for once not go the route of favoring the variation that's most in step with Eurocentric beauty standards. Just for a change. Shits and giggles or whatever.

"Kaif’s light skin (which

"Kaif’s light skin (which it uncritically lauds as a “a classical type of Indian beauty”) being a result of mixed heritage"

Light or fair skin <i>is</i> the "classical" or traditional Indian beauty (of course what exactly is "fair" depends on which part of India). As for Kaif, she actually looks more Indian than her own Kashmiri father. Anyway, I don't really find her beautiful; her face is too long and manly IMO.

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