How Old Is Barbie Supposed to Be, Anyway?

It depends on whether she’s running for president or just hanging out.
Barbie is no age and every age.
Barbie is no age and every age. / Ian Waldie/GettyImages
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In a 2012 episode of the web series Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Barbie’s birthday prompts her friends to ponder the mystery of her age.

“I know she was a doctor, and you gotta go to school for at least 11 years for that,” Nikki says, and Teresa points out that she must be at least 35 years old since she ran for president. At the end of the episode, Barbie does divulge how old she is—but a vacuum starts roaring just in time to prevent viewers from hearing the number.

Unlike other IP universes, the Barbie-verse has never been very concerned with trying to fit every piece of content into one tidy timeline—or with applying the rules and logic of a human world to a toy one. Life in the Dreamhouse was especially adept at using those inconsistencies for self-referential humor. In the very first scene of the first episode, Barbie—who looks to be all of about 20 years old, if that—mentions that she and Ken are celebrating their 43rd anniversary (of the first time they held hands, to be clear).

In other words, to identify a single age for Barbie would be to violate the character’s mythos. She’s however old she needs to be in order to best serve a certain story or product. But since you’re here, we’ll try to apply the rules and logic of our human world to Barbie’s toy one.

When Barbie hit shelves in 1959, the box described her as a “teen age fashion model.” Though it’s been widely reported that this inaugural iteration of the character was 19 years old, Mattel itself is typically mum on the whole topic. The company didn’t answer TODAY’s request for comment on Barbie’s age earlier this year; and the Barbie media site doesn’t include her age in an otherwise pretty comprehensive list of personal facts about the character. Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts; she’s from the fictional Wisconsin town of Willows; and her birthday is March 9, 1959, the day she debuted at a New York toy fair.

For the sake of the exercise, though, let’s say the first Barbie really was 19 years old. That would make sense: She’d be old enough to have graduated high school and begun her career, but still young enough to be called a teenager. If true, and we assume that March 9, 1959, was Barbie’s 19th birthday, then it means she celebrated her 83rd birthday in March 2023. If you’d rather consider March 9, 1959, as the day she was actually born, then she’s currently 64 years old.