Madam C.J. Walker Is Mattel’s Latest ‘Inspiring Women’ Barbie Doll
It’s been a big year for Barbie fans—and we’re not just talking about all those photos of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling filming their upcoming Barbie movie.
Over the past several months, Mattel has released doll versions of Ida B. Wells and Jane Goodall as part of its Inspiring Women series. Queen Elizabeth II also got the Barbie treatment in celebration of her 96th birthday in April.
Now, another trailblazer is joining the ‘Inspiring Women’ ranks: Madam C.J. Walker. Born to formerly enslaved parents in 1867, Walker—née Sarah Breedlove—was widowed by age 20 and started working as a laundress to provide for her young daughter. She eventually took a job with a company that sold hair products specifically made for Black Americans, which inspired her to create her own superior hair care line.
“Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower” was massively popular in the early 20th century, and Walker leveraged that success to create an entire cosmetics empire. She’s widely credited as America’s first female self-made millionaire and lauded as one of the most savvy businesspeople in history.
Her Barbie likeness pays homage to her life and legacy in more ways than one. It was designed with the help of Walker’s own great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. In addition to authoring the biography On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, Bundles also founded the Madam Walker Family Archives and serves as brand historian for the modern iteration of her ancestor’s products: MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker.
The doll is sporting a period-accurate purple blouse and textured turquoise skirt—a nod to “some of Walker’s favorite colors,” according to designer Carlyle Nuera. She also comes with a tiny tin replica of Walker’s famous Wonderful Hair Grower.
“[Mattel’s] design team graciously welcomed me throughout all steps of the process—from hair development to packaging—to capture and celebrate the legacy of this trailblazing Black businesswoman,” Bundles said in a statement. “I can’t wait for a new generation to be inspired by her story and to tell their own stories through a role model who came before them.”