Misty Copeland Barbie Doll Looks White, Triggers Skin Color Controversy

Misty Copeland white Barbie

Misty Copeland is the newest star to get her own Barbie, part of Mattel’s “You Can Be Anything” campaign, according to the Washington Post. The new Barbie doll became available for sale last Monday, but the doll has already triggered quite a controversy because the doll’s skin color appears much whiter than the ballerina herself.

Ballerina Misty Copeland inspired Mattel to model a Barbie doll on her after the 33-year-old ballerina became the first African American woman to be promoted to the top rank of ballerinas at American Ballet Theatre.

But Mattel failed to make the Barbie doll’s skin the appropriate shade of brown to match Misty Copeland’s natural skin color. In fact, it’s quite difficult to recognize Copeland in the Barbie doll. It’s only the fact that the doll is labeled as a Misty Copeland Barbie doll and the ballerina costume that lets fans know Mattel’s idea was to make a doll that would resemble Copeland.

But it does resemble the ballerina in some ways, as the Barbie doll has those calves that look as if they were carved out of granite, Misty Copeland’s signature stage makeup, ballerina costume, and pink pointe shoes. But other than that, it’s hard to differentiate between whiter versions of Barbie dolls and the Copeland doll.

But the Barbie press release states that the Barbie doll was made in Misty Copeland’s “likeness,” adding that the ballerina herself was “intimately” involved in the making of the Barbie doll. In fact, it appears that Copeland approved the Barbie doll before putting it out on sale, as the ballerina partnered with the Barbie design team on all the details of the doll.

And while other Barbie dolls from Mattel’s “You Can Be Anything” campaign are spot-on copies of the real women (for example, Selma director Ava DuVernay), Misty Copeland’s doll doesn’t resemble the ballerina much for some reason.

The campaign honors females who inspire girls by breaking barriers in various spheres of life and expanding possibilities for women around the world. But a Mattel spokeswoman was quick to explain why the Barbie doll looks whiter than Misty Copeland.

Kelly Powers, the company’s spokesperson, said that the skin color faded due to the lightning when taking a snap of the Misty Copeland doll. And it’s hard to disagree with Powers, as when you look at the photo on which Copeland herself is holding her own Barbie doll close to herself, it really does seem like the doll’s color resembles the ballerina’s natural skin color.

But the thing is that it’s the pictures of the Misty Copeland doll in which it looks whiter that are featured on the Barbie Collection website, which is why visitors of the website will have a hard time guessing who this Barbie doll actually is.

However, the controversy over the Barbie doll’s skin color didn’t prevent it from being sold out within minutes of last Monday’s rollout for pre-order. Misty Copeland’s doll goes on sale on the Barbie website next week.

In her interview with Mashable, Misty Copeland admitted that she wanted the company to make her Barbie doll’s bust bigger to really represent her. It was also important for the ballerina to truly represent her strong muscles on the Barbie doll because there aren’t many dolls that represent real athletes.

Misty Copeland also admitted that she played with Barbie dolls until she was 14. And she would probably continue playing with Barbies if ballet wasn’t taking up so much of her time back then.

“I was such a shy child. I spent a lot of time listening to music and playing with Barbie. When I learned to sew, I would make clothes for her.”

[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]