Black Barbie: A Documentary
In 1955, Beulah Mae Mitchell landed a toy testing job with Mattel and packed her bags to move to Los Angeles. She soon joined coworkers in advocating for a Black Barbie by simply asking, “Why not make a Barbie that looks like me?” Her niece, film director Lagueria Davis, examines the enthralling and difficult road to the first Black Barbie, including Mattel’s blunders. In the process, Davis transforms from a skeptic of the iconic doll to an admirer and student of Barbie’s cultural significance.
Rooted in Mitchell’s 45 years of personal experience as a Mattel employee, the documentary contextualizes the history and cultural response to Black Barbie through an array of interviews with scholars, doll collectors, former employees, and children. Since the first release of Black Barbie in 1980 (with a nod to Diana Ross), the film charts lasting impacts on the portrayal of Black women in entertainment and merchandise. With biting humor and interrogation, Black Barbie elevates voices of Black women who have fought for inclusive representation in the most influential toy in history.
Introduction by Dr. Ashleigh Greene Wade (UVA).
Closed Captions are available for this screening and assistive devices are available upon request with advance notice. Visit VAFF Accessibility for more information.