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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Not Just Another Pretty Face
Column for the week of April 28-May 4, 2002

Barbara Millicent Roberts was born in Willows Wisconsin. She became a teenage model in 1959 while attending Willows High. Her first assignment was modeling a striped swimsuit, which became her trademark for a few years. Her signature color was pink. She has 5 sisters, one named Tutti, which is her twin. She went to college in 1964. As a model she wore fashions designed by the best in the business like Christian Dior, Bob Mackee, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Versace, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Gucci and Givency. She became adored in over 140 countries. She loved pets and had horses, dogs, ponies, cats, a parrot, chimp, panda, lion, giraffe and a zebra. She was attacked by feminists but adored by young girls. Activists went so far as to pass out leaflets at a New York fair stating that she demeaned women and cause them "to see themselves as mannequins, sex objects, or housewives." But Barbara came back with a vengeance, determined not to be seen as just another pretty face. She went on to have 80 careers. And to prove her longevity, she is even more popular today than when she started in the business. Not a bad legacy for a cheap little "doll" that's been on the market for over 40 years. Maybe you've heard of her. They call her "Barbie!"

Although she originally cost just $3, you couldn't call her cheap because by the time you bought all her clothes and accessories you were out $1,927,589.32. One of those little original dolls in mint condition goes for $10,000 today. But then doll collecting is the second only to stamp collecting in U.S. as the most popular collecting hobby. The average little girl today owns 10 Barbies and one is sold every 2 seconds.

I know the Mid East is a shambles, terrorism abounds, and there is trouble and turmoil everywhere. But for my money, the biggest news this week is that Ruth Handler, creator of the Barbie doll, died at the age of 85 yesterday.

Ruth Handler and her husband, Elliot, helped found the Mattel toy company. Ruth is remembered as the "entrepreneur and marketing genius" who created the Barbie doll, possibly the world's most popular and longest living toy. The year was 1959 and until that time only baby dolls like Betsy Wetsy and Chatty Cathy were on the market. So when Ruth saw her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls and imagine them as grown ups, she thought it was time to introduce a real doll for little girls to use to do the same thing. So Barbie doll was born and named after guess who? Years later a boy doll named Ken, named after her son, would come along.

Ruth's life story, recounted in her book, Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story, is fascinating. Not only did she create the Barbie line of toys, she went on to found Nearly Me, a breast prosthesis manufacturing company, after a round with breast cancer. But let's take another look at Barbie.

I personally think she gets a bum rap. No other doll has been analyzed, attacked, or adored as much as she. So what if she isn't anatomically correct? At least now she has a belly button, as of the year 2000. Who wants to play with some pudgy, mousy little twit of a doll anyway? If so, her best friend, Midge, would have been a best seller. A doll like Barbie lets you feel you can be beautiful and intelligent too. She gives a little girl some vision. (Proverbs 29:18) I like to think when God looks at me He sees the "Barbie" in me. Yes, He loves me the way that I am but with Him in me, the sky's the limit.

Barbie's a doll. She becomes what you want her to be. Who else has been a member of the Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, plus an astronaut? She's sung at the Grand Ole Opry, been part of a rock band, and danced in the Nutcracker Suite. She's been a doctor, engineer, and paleontologist? She's owned cars, homes, and motorcycles. She speaks 150 languages. She's even been a pro bowler. If you're gonna dream, dream big! No telling what she could do if she got Ken to stop mooching off her and go get a job.

What can I say? I like Barbie. She's only 44 and still looks young. I can hardly wait for Menopausal Barbie to become available. And in case you think this article isn't religious enough for you, just wait till that line of Bible Barbies comes out. What do you think of Bible Thumpin' Barbie? T.V. Evangelist Barbie? Missionary Barbie? Rabbi Barbie? Barbie Buddha? Barbie the Nun? Baptist Barbie? Hey, she's not just another pretty face.

©April 2002

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bydahlgren@aol.com.



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