Netflix's Black Barbie: Is it based on a true story, and when was the first Black Barbie released?

 Black Barbie.
Credit: Netflix

With her long blonde locks and bright blue eyes, Margot Robbie dominated the box office as Barbie last year. Now there is a new film about the titular doll, which is set to take over the small screen this summer.

If you are a fan of the iconic doll, Black Barbie is a must watch. With Bridgerton’s Shonda Rhimes as an executive producer, the heart-warming film looks at surprising story behind the first black Barbie and how it came into existence.

Not only does the film look at the last impact of the iconic doll, it explores the passionate campaign by Mattel employees, identity and the importance of representation.

Is Black Barbie based on a true story?

Now on Netflix, Black Barbie is a new feature-length film that shares the true-story behind the first black Barbie’s release and the campaign by three Mattel employees to get it on shelves.

With interviews from the women behind the iconic doll, the documentary reveals how Mattel employee Beulah Mae Mitchell began campaigning for better representation with a new doll in the fifties. However, it wasn't until designers Kitty Black Perkins and Stacey McBride Irby joined Mattel in the seventies that the project began to take shape.

The film explores the three women's determination to get the doll to shelves. While they may have inspired the next generation, the doll also impacted their workplace – with calls for change at Mattel too.

Black Barbie
Black Barbie

When was the first black Barbie released?

Despite the tireless efforts from those involved, progress was slow. With many opposed to the doll and scepticism about how it would sell, Mitchell had to campaign for over four decades to get the first black Barbie on shelves.

Having started on the manufacturing line in 1955, she worked closely with Mattel and Barbie founder Ruth Handler to create the revolutionary doll. Though the company did sell black dolls like Christie and Nurse Julia in the sixties, these were often side characters to the official Barbie doll.

In 1980, Mattel finally released its first black Barbie doll. Recalling the historical moment, Black Perkins told film crews: “When I designed this doll, there was a need for the little Black girl to have something she could play with that looked like her. I wanted her to reflect the total look of a Black woman.”

Black Barbie is now available to stream on Netflix.