11 Fun Facts About Barbie

iStock.com/ivanastar
iStock.com/ivanastar

Barbie celebrates her 60th birthday this year, and Mattel is going all out for her big day. Her "diamond jubilee" doll is available, a large Barbie pop-up experience will open in New York City on her "birthday," and a seven-month Barbie 'Be Anything' Tour featuring country singer Kelsea Ballerini will hit 34 Walmarts across the country. How she looks so good for being nearly six decades old, we'll probably never know, but we do know these other fun Barbie factoids.

1. She was born on March 9, 1959.

Barbie's official birthday represents her public debut at the 1959 American International Toy Fair in New York. She stood 11 inches tall and was dressed for a pool party in her black and white striped one-piece. Barbie was instantly recognizable as the only toy in the doll aisle that wasn't modeled as a baby or a little kid—having a grown woman as a plaything for children was an entirely new concept. One thing she didn't have at first? A belly button. That was added to her design more than 40 years later, in 2000.

2. She was created by an engineer who used to work for the Pentagon.

Jack Ryan began his career as an engineer, making missiles for the Pentagon, but was eventually hired away by Mattel for his "space-age savvy" and knowledge of materials (meaning, he'd be able to make high-quality, well-functioning toys). His designs helped give Barbie her twistable waist and "click click" knee joints.

3. She was based on an R-rated German doll.

A vintage Barbie wearing lingerie
Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images

Though Ryan designed Barbie, the concept came from Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler. Handler was traveling through Europe with her kids when she came across the Germany-born Bild Lilli doll, who was anything but kid-friendly: Lilli was a high-class call girl who began her life as a comic and was sold in smoke shops, adult toy stores, and other not-kid-friendly places. But Handler, who had mentioned the idea of an adult doll to her Mattel exec husband before, liked what she saw. Though her husband, Elliot, had initially balked at the idea, the Lilli dolls sold him on the concept. Though Bild Lilli's manufacturer initially sued Mattel for patent infringement, the case was eventually dismissed and Mattel officially bought the rights to the doll for $21,600.

4. Barbie is named after the creators' daughter.

Barbara Handler, daughter of Ruth Handler and namesake inspiration for the Barbie doll, poses for a photograph after placing her hands in cement that will adorn the sidewalk at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2002.
Barbara Handler, daughter of Ruth Handler and namesake inspiration for the Barbie doll, poses for a photograph after placing her hands in cement that will adorn the sidewalk at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2002.
Robert Mora/Getty Images

Barbie is named after the Handlers' daughter, Barbara. Ken is named after their son, Kenneth. In Barbie's world, her parents are George and Margaret Roberts from Willows, Wisconsin. Other family members include her siblings: Skipper, Tutti, Todd, Stacie, Kelly, Chelsea, and Krissy. Tutti and Todd are twins … but so are Todd and Stacie, apparently (at least according to Todd's box). She also has cousins named Francie and Jazzie.

5. One of her siblings went missing.

A Barbie van filled with dolls
Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images

Only adding to that whole twin sibling mystery: Tutti mysteriously disappeared in 1971, so we can only assume that Stacie (introduced in 1992) is Tutti reincarnated.

6. She's been at the center of some very real body-image controversies.

The waists of four Barbie dolls in red swimsuits
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Barbie has been at the center of many body image controversies over the years due to her ridiculously svelte-yet-busty figure. Mattel makes Barbie at a 1/6 scale, which is standard scale for action figures. This would make Barbie's measurements 38-18-28 (reports vary based on versions of dolls). Various outlets and organizations have pointed out how these proportions make her more than just an unrealistic standard—they would make a human woman physically incapable of walking, holding up her head, or having fully functioning internal organs. Mattel has responded to calls for change by releasing a number of dolls with varying body types, skin tones, and hairstyles.

7. One special-edition Barbie came with a weight loss book that included "Don't Eat" as a tip.

A girl plays with a Barbie and Ken doll in 1961.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Making body-image matters even worse is a piece of Barbie's history—1965's Slumber Party Barbie came with her very own "How to Lose Weight" book, which included tips like "don't eat." She also came with a bathroom scale that put the 5'9" Barbie in at 110 pounds. Well, 5'9" if you consider the 1/6 scale, which makes Barbie about 35 pounds underweight.

8. An original Barbie is worth some serious money today.

An original Barbie from 1959
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The first Barbie sold for $3 each (various accessories were extra). Today, an original in mint condition could likely fetch nearly $25,000 at auction. Of course, plenty of non-mint Barbies are also worth a pretty penny, and are regularly for sale on eBay and through various vintage retailers.

9. There have been lots of celebrity dolls.

An Elizabeth Taylor Barbie doll.
An Elizabeth Taylor Barbie doll.
Mattel/Online USA

British fashion icon Twiggy was the first real-life celebrity to get her own Barbie—the supermodel's doll wore a mod mini-skirt, go-go boots, and her signature spider lashes. Numerous other famous people have had their own Barbies as well, including dolls wearing the classic looks of Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn, as well as more modern women like Nicki Minaj, J.K. Rowling, Gigi Hadid, and Ava Duvernay.

10. Barbie's first career was as a teen model.

ASL Barbie
Photo courtesy of Mattel/Hulton Archive

Since embarking on her first career as a teen fashion model, Barbie has had may other jobs, including: a fashion editor, a flight attendant, a ballerina, a tennis pro, an executive, a candy striper, an astronaut, a surgeon, Miss America, a gold medal gymnast, an actress, an aerobics instructor, a reporter, a rock star, a UNICEF ambassador, an army officer, a rapper, a chef, a police officer, a Rockette, a baseball player, a SCUBA diver, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Squadron Leader, a paleontologist, a NASCAR driver, a pilot, a sign language teacher, a presidential candidate, an American Idol winner, a zoologist, a Space Camp instructor, and a fashion intern (which, ironically, came decades after her fashion editor gig). And this list is by no means exhaustive—she's had more than 200 careers so far.

11. Her signature color, in case you hadn't noticed, is pink.

Row of Barbies in pink boxes
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Specifically, Barbie's pink is Pantone color PMS 219 C (and yes, there is a special Barbie with a dress made out of Pantone swatches).

A shorter version of this story originally ran in 2009.

11 Easy Ways to Be Greener on Earth Day

iStock/yacobchuk
iStock/yacobchuk

Kermit got it all wrong: It is easy being green. Committing to go green doesn’t have to mean a 10-mile walk to work or abiding by "if it’s yellow, let it mellow"—you can make a difference by making small adjustments that add up to big change. Here are 11 ideas to get you started for Earth Day.

1. Use your dishwasher to go green.

It may seem counterintuitive, but your dishwasher is way more energy- and water-efficient at washing dishes than you are, as long as you’re running a full dishwasher. According to one German study, dishwashers use half of the energy and a sixth of the water, not to mention less soap. So, don’t feel guilty about skipping the sink of sudsy water, or about not pre-rinsing before loading up the machine—you’re actually doing the environment a favor by firing up your dishwasher.

2. Switch to online bill paying and use less paper.

Not only is it convenient to pay all of your bills with a click or two, it’s also an easy way to go green. One study found that the average U.S. household receives 19 bills and statements from credit card companies, banks, and utilities every month. By switching to online statements and online bill pay, each American household could save 6.6 pounds of paper per year, save 0.08 trees, and not produce 171 pounds of greenhouse gases. Not bad for simply clicking a few "receive online statements" boxes.

3. Opt out of junk mail and catalogs.

While you’re paring down the amount of stuff that arrives daily in your mailbox, visit Catalog Choice to opt out of various mailers you don’t want to receive. So far, the nonprofit organization says they have saved more than 500,000 trees, over 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gas, more than 400 million pounds of solid waste, and approximately 3.5 billion gallons of water.

4. Plant a tree so Earth Day is Every Day.

Planting trees is obviously great for the environment, but if you’re strategic about it, it can help you reduce your energy costs and use less fossil fuel. According to ArborDay.org, planting large deciduous trees on the east, west, and northwest sides of your house can shade and cool your home during the warmer months, even slashing your air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.

5. Turn off the tap while you're standing at the sink.

If you leave the tap running while you tend to your pearly whites, you’re wasting approximately 200 gallons of water a month. Just turn the tap on when you need to wet your brush or rinse, instead of letting H20 pour uselessly down the drain. The same goes for anyone who shaves with the water running.

6. Go thrifting for clothes and housewares.

Take some advice from your old pal Macklemore and hit up some thrift shops—and that goes for whether you’re getting rid of clutter or adding more to your home. Buying and donating to thrift stores and second-hand shops means you’re recycling, supporting your local economy, and saving money. In fact, by some estimates, every item of clothing donated reduces 27 pounds of carbon emissions.

7. Get a houseplant to clear the air.

And grab a little guy for your desk at work, too. House plants and desk plants have been proven to improve your mood and raise productivity, but they also purify the air by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in homes and offices. They also absorb carbon dioxide and increase the humidity. Low-maintenance plants include pothos, spider plants, jade, various succulents, and peace lilies.

8. Get scrappy with Art and crafts.

Cut up paper that has only been used on one side and use it to scribble reminders, notes, grocery lists, etc. Or flip it over for any kids you know to color on. (You can color on it, too, if you want.)

9. Put your caffeine fix to work for the Earth.

Your coffee likely traveled thousands of miles to arrive in your pantry, so get good use out of it. Use your grounds to mulch plants that love acidic soil, like roses, evergreens, and rhododendrons. If your garden problems tend to be less about the dirt and more about the things that live in it, certain garden denizens hate coffee—namely ants, slugs, and snails. Sprinkle grounds in problem areas to deter them.

10. Enlighten yourself to Energy Savings.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs—the spiral light bulbs) may cost more upfront, but they’ll save up to $57 over the life of the bulb. More importantly, they use 70 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and installing them is as easy as screwing in a light bulb. (Insert joke here.)

11. Make tracks instead of short car trips.

You don't have to cut out your daily driving entirely, but when you only have a few blocks, or perhaps just a mile or two to travel and don't need to transport anything bulky, consider walking or hopping on your bike. Walking on those short trips generates less than a quarter of the greenhouse gasses that are emitted by driving the same distance.

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

iStock/fieldwork
iStock/fieldwork

Who is a penguin's favorite family member? Aunt Arctica! 

We kid! But seven of the 17 species of penguins can be found on the southernmost continent. Here are 20 more fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds. 

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

A group of penguins on an iceberg.
iStock/axily

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

Three emperor penguins
iStock/Fabiano_Teixeira

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

A gentoo penguin swimming underwater
iStock/chameleonseye

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

Penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock/USO

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Emperor penguins with chicks
iStock/vladsilver

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

Gentoo penguin chick molting
iStock/ChristianWilkinson

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.

A colony of king penguins
iStock/DurkTalsma

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

Two chinstrap penguins
iStock/Legacy-Images

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

Magellanic penguin nesting in the ground
iStock/JeremyRichards

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

Penguin eggs
iStock/Buenaventuramariano

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

A group of emperor penguins and chick
iStock/vladsilver

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguin chick and parent on a nest
iStock/golnyk

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

Three emperor penguin chicks
iStock/AntAntarctic

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

Gentoo penguins
iStock/Goddard_Photography

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

A group of magellanic penguins on the seacoast
iStock/encrier

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

A cape penguin in South Africa
iStock/ziggy_mars

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

Man videotaping a penguin in Antarctica
iStock/Bkamprath

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

This story was first published in 2017.

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