Insert photo of new Barbie bodies (www.shop.mattel.com)
If seeing is believing, the image of ideal female beauty is changing how women are portrayed in the media and society. Both Barbie Doll (www.barbie.com) and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models (www.si.com) are promoting diversity to more accurately reflect and inform how girls' and women's bodies look in reality. These examples may show that incorporating diversity into a company's business plan makes a good headline and a better bottom line.
Barbie's transformational scheduled plastic surgery is so newsworthy she made the cover of Time magazine (www.Time.com). The cover line read: "Now can we stop talking about my body?" It's hard enough for real women to make the cover. Of the 44 issues Time published in 2015, women were the cover topic or profile in eight issues, including Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Angela Merkel and Adele. Merkel, named Time's 2015 "Person of the Year," was the first individual woman so named in 29 years. Philippines President Corazon Aquino was chosen in 1986. See "Women and Major Magazines Cover Stories Monitor reports in my archive (www.huffingtonpost.com/beverly-wettenstein/).
This year the Barbie doll franchise is introducing the most diverse choices in her 57-year history. Mattel is adding three new body types: petite, tall and curvy, to original busty Barbie. The iconic Blonde Bombshell Barbie's dimensions would translate in human inches to 5'9" tall, weigh 110 pounds, with 39-inch bust, 19 inch waist and 29 inch hips. Barbie could barely walk upright in her stiletto heels and would need Ken Doll just to carry her around. Now Barbie has a backside and a back story. Her feet are shaped to wear flats so she can put her best foot forward. Plus, Barbie's dramatic makeover includes seven skin tones, 24 hair styles, 30 hair colors and 22 eye colors. New-generation Barbies will offer a range 33 different dolls now being marketed to a more diverse global audience.
Diversity and reality are the new business models to rescue declining sales. The collector's Ava DuVernay Barbie, in honor of the "Selma" filmmaker's likeness, sold out within an hour. In fact, Barbie might well be a prognosticator for future careers for women. Barbie was a astronaut in 1965. Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space in 1983. This summer Mattel will introduce President Barbie and Vice President Barbie. Barbie's Dream House may be a White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Curves ahead! Just as Barbie is becoming more realistic, so too, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is making waves. For the first time in the 53-year history of the issue, three separate "cover-worthy" models are featured. MMA champion fighter Ronda Rousey, 29, is shown in her body painted birthday suit. Plus-size model Ashley Graham, 28, and fashion model Hailey Clauson, 20, have their own covers.
Nicole Griffin, 56 (the same age as Barbie in doll years), the oldest model ever featured in the annual edition, is in a swimsuit ad. Since the Swimsuit issue's inception in 1964, many model careers have been launched and business brands built, including Christie Brinkley and Heidi Klum. Making the cover may also make a model celebrity marriage. Chrissy Teigen, 2014 cover model, is married to singer and songwriter John Legend. Hannah Davis, 2015 cover model, recently got engaged to Yankee all-time hit player, Derek Jetter.
As a women's advocate, I could take issue with the annual SI Swimsuit's emphasis on models and their bodies. Keeping abreast of "Athletes in Body Paint," Caroline Wozniacki, tennis, and Lindsey Vonn, skiing, are featured along with Rousey, because "Athletes make the best canvases." There is no mention of their sports creds.
My own mission, as stated on my website (www.beverlywettenstein.com) is to "recognize successful female role models for their impressive body of work, not body work."
Broadly speaking, apart from the SI Swimsuit issue, it is unusual for women athletes to be featured in the magazine. It is a rarer feat to honor a female athlete on the cover. Serena Williams was only the tenth woman recognized in 61 years to earn the 2015 Sportsperson of the Year cover story. Williams was the third solo female athlete in more than 32 years to receive the honor and the first solo African-American woman. She was chosen for her career excellence accomplishments on the court and using her platform to advocate for race and gender issues, including body shaming and the spirit of sportsmanship.
The first Swimsuit edition debuted in 1964 as a five-page supplement, to increase readership between popular sports seasons. It became an annual special issue in 1997. Si Swimsuit is the single best-selling issue, traditionally selling more than one million copies on newsstand. The Swimsuit issue is on sale for three months at $9.99.
The new Barbies and the SI Swimsuit models are more real than the (un)Real Housewives and bachelorettes on TV. They represent small steps forward for womankind and the women's movement. See the Women's Media Center's "The Status of Women in U.S. Media 2015" report (www.womensmediacenter.com).