First Black Barbie

Name: Black Barbie

Made by and When: Mattel, 1979 (released in 1980)

Material: Vinyl

Marks: Unknown (the doll is NRFB).

Height: 11-1/2 inches

Hair/Eyes/Mouth: Black Afro/brown painted eyes/red painted, slightly pursed lips

Clothes: Shimmery red bodysuit with gold lamé embellishments at the neckline; shimmery red wrap skirt, red dangle earrings, red high-heel shoes, and a red ring

Other: An Afro pick is the only accessory. This is the first Black doll to be given the name Barbie. All other Black dolls made before this doll were friends of Barbie, i.e. Christie, Barbie’s modern cousin “Colored” Francie, and Julia (not a friend of Barbie but released during the vintage Barbie era. This doll uses the Steffie head sculpt. The doll’s signature statement is on the lower front of the box, “She’s black! She’s beautiful! She dynamite!”

Black Barbie was designed by Kitty Black-Perkins, who was chief designer of fashions and doll concepts for Mattel’s Barbie line for over twenty-five years. She is also the first African American to design Barbies.

Born Louvenia Black, this Spartanburg, South Carolina native is one of seven children. She was encouraged to dream big by her parents whose encouragement was instrumental in her pursuit of an education and career in fashion design. In addition to designing the first Black Barbie, some of the many lines designed by Black-Perkins include Shani and Friends, introduced in 1991; Fashion Savvy, introduced in 1997, which includes Tangerine Twist and Uptown Chic; and the Brandy line. Among other single dolls, Black-Perkins’ Barbie designs include Evening Extravaganza from the Classique Collection, 1993; and Shopping Chic Barbie designed exclusively for Spiegel, 1995. While at Mattel, Black-Perkins became an inspiration for other Mattel designers such as Stacey McBride-Irby. McBride-Irby initially worked as an assistant designer to Kitty. Black-Perkins remained with Mattel until the early 2000s.

Slideshow (Use right or left arrows to advance the slideshow).


Kitty Black-Perkins

In this Facebook video, Kitty Black Perkins speaks about the creation of Black Barbie and working at Mattel.


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Published by DeeBeeGee

Doll collector, historian, co-founder of the first e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls; author of black-doll reference books, doll blogs, and doll magazine articles.

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