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Sports Illustrated ' s Controversial New Cover Model


Move over Lil Kim, there is a new girl making headlines. Barbie is causing quite a stir online these days thanks to her newest venture with Sports Illustrated. Models such as Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum have graced the cover of the mag's highly anticipated swimsuit issue, and now the iconic supermodel Barbie will grace the cover for a creative collaboration that has never been done before. The project with Mattel and Sports Illustrated will feature Barbie gracing the cover in the same swimsuit that she wore in 1959, as well as a spread with 22 different Barbie dolls in different scenes, and will sport the theme #unapologetic. The cover doll will also be featured for sale exclusively at Target stores across the country.

But no matter how "genuis" the marketing team thinks their idea has been, of course there are critics waiting to unleash and boycott the collaboration.  Many believe that having a doll, which is supposed to be for little girls on a cover of a swimsuit issue that promotes sexism is the wrong message to send to young girls. Some insist that this only fuels the age old argument of whether the doll itself is a suitable image for our youth. For years, many have complained that the original images of Barbie with her blond locks, blue eyes, and oversized breasts sent out the message that this was America's stereotype of perfection that has plagued our country for so long.  Since then, the design team at Mattel have released Barbie dolls of various ethnicities and themes; however,  they all still maintain the same svelte figure as the original Barbie. Featuring a bikini clad doll on the cover of a magazine whose annual campaign has already been the topic of controversy only adds fuel to the fire.

Supporters of the campaign insist that they embrace the new "unapologetic" Barbie; saying that it encourages women to be themselves regardless of who they are. They also insist that a campaign of this style is not meant to attract the attention of young girls who still play with dolls, but rather grown women who have nostalgic memories of growing up with Barbie and often collect the dolls to this day. There is an overwhelming surge of Barbie collectors who are generally women over the age of 21 who idolized the pint sized babe, and can now afford to have their dolls draped in designer duds created by the likes of Bob Mackie and Christian Louboutin.  For them it's a sign of growth and a celebration of financial independence.  These women can afford to spend $300 on a doll in which they will never take out of a box. And for women who revere the nostalgia but don't look exactly like the 1959 version of the doll, they can afford to have a doll made with hips to rival Beyonce and a skin tone like Lupita Nyong'o if they so choose. She can don a suit, a lab coat, or leather pants with matching pasties for that matter.

But what about the arguments that insist that this merger sets us back as women? Should we believe that Barbie 's sexpot image with an unrealistic figure will further instill thoughts of insecurity in the minds of young girls, let alone grown women who may be unsure of themselves or insecure about their looks? In my day (geez that sounds old), we didn't have a variety of different dolls to choose from. There were two Barbies: the fair skinned blond and blue eyed Barbie,  and a dark skinned Barbie. Guess what? Neither one of those broads ever looked like me! Did that stop me from adoring the little beauties?  Not at all? Did it instill in me the idea that I wanted to be fair skinned, blond, with oversized breasts?  Not at all. But what it did instill in me was that I wanted to be Barbie’s characters. I wanted to be the Barbie that owned the McDonald's, sang in a rock band, went to the Christmas ball every year, baked cookies for my man, became an astronaut,  and drove a shiny pink Corvette with room for all of her girls. I wanted it all, and I still do. It didn't matter that she wasn't a short light skinned girl with brown hair. I loved her anyway.

And what I love about this campaign is the creativity that we all should embrace. Now, I have to be honest I thought it was a little strange for Sports Illustrated to put dolls in a position that is usually reserved for models; and I've never really been a huge fan of the sexist nature of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.  But the creative combination and the element of surprise of this issue ignites the nerdy girl inside of me. When people think of Sports Illustrated they think of neanderthal men drooling over scantily clad models who look like they need a cheeseburger.  The depiction of a "Toy Story" like magazine spread catapults their name into marketing mayhem, and gives their employees a chance to play at work and actually get paid for it. Kudos to the marketing teams of Sports Illustrated and Mattel. Can't wait to see how this issue turns out.

What are your thoughts on the issue?  Will you support it or protest against it?