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January 22, 2012


Anita Daniel

Personally speaking, I think a bald Barbie might make some little girls feel better about themselves, but I don't think it would make much of a dent in our cultural attitude towards hair. I think Mattel is right in responding that they cannot consider all outside submissions.

Fred Held

Thanks for posting my comment on creating a friend of Barbie who would be bald allowing Barbie to help her through her treatment.

Many years ago when I was at Mattel, I was asked to create a product line for all children with challenges.

After we had created some prototype dolls and accessories we did the responsible thing and interviewed those very children.

None of these special kids with challenges wanted dolls with obvious challenges. They wanted typical dolls and other products.

Before creating a bald friend of Barbie, I would interview those kids who have lost their hair because of their treatment for cancer and other diseases and injuries.

My guess is the kids will not want a Bald Friend of Barbie. Check it out for yourselves.

Michelle Spelman

Anita: Thank you for sharing your thoughts here Anita! Many of the people I talked to, and many of the commenters that have posted their point of view on other articles that have been published previously online, share you opinion for sure.

Fred, I especially appreciate the chance to hear your past experiences insights and real life studies of the subject. Thank you again for your willingness to share your thoughts.

--Michelle Spelman

Kathleen Cail

As the parent of an amazing 12 year old girl, with a neuromuscular condition, I would like to share some anecdotal observations. My daughter never wants attention called to her leg braces and only she is allowed to talk about her condition. It is off-limits for us to bring it up. On the flip side, she definitely wanted the Molly American Girl Doll (AGD) because Molly wears glasses (as does my daughter) and she also wanted the AGD wheel chair and cast/crutches set. Even some of her friends wanted the wheelchair because of my daughter. This is a sensitive issue and as Mr. Held suggests, this is the perfect opportunity for important marketing research to determine whether children would like a "bald" Barbie or a "bald" friend of Barbie. Perhaps "Bald and Beautiful Barbie" is based on the way adults view the world, vs. children. Other research might be considered into whether this looks exploitive of Mattel, or whether this is offensive to people living with Albinism, Down Syndrome, etc. who don't have dolls which represent them. As someone who has worked extensively with Positive Exposure (www.positiveexposure.org) and Everybody Counts, in Cincinnati, the important point here is that awareness has been raised and people are expanding their definition of what is beautiful and becoming more accepting of the shared humanity we have, regardless of difference. Mr. Dugan is right to point out that the objective is bigger than just the issue with Mattel. There are important social and business issues to be considered and this "Bald and Beautiful Barbie" wagon doesn't need to be hitched to just the Mattel star.

Michelle Spelman

Kathleen, you make a very valid point when you talk about the way adults view the world being different from the way children view the world.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and observations.

"Positive Exposure" is a beautiful mission! I had the chance to see the exhibit when it was at the Cincinnati Museum Center! The message that "different" doesn't mean "ugly" is so powerful. I highly recommend readers take a peek at this series of beautiful portraits. http://www.positiveexposure.org/

Mary Kay

Great post Michelle. I'm not too thrilled with the bald Barbie idea. Here's why: I think it's unnecessary to put ALL parents of girls who roam the Barbie aisle at (insert store name here) in the position of having to explain the devastating effects of cancer to their four- or five-year old child. Awareness is one thing; this would take it to a whole new level that some parents, and some children may not be ready for. Alternatively, I DO believe it would be a great idea to have ANY doll-maker create a brand in the likeness of children afflicted with cancer, and perhaps sell it through the therapeutic toy/game market - Not through mass retailers.

Michelle Spelman

Mary Kay: It seems there are more toys being made available as time goes on that are designed to meet therapeutic needs of children.

Often, the families who need it the most don't realize there are companies and organizations that focus on creating access to those types of products.

Families need direction to find them. This is where therapists and hospital Child Life departments become critical allies.

Social media is now also a powerful resource to find special needs products and therapeutic toys.... and, as it turns out, to ask for something specific (like a bald Barbie).

Thanks for weighing in Mary Kay!

Deborah Greenbaum

However have bald, sick children felt beautiful before last month when this Facebook page started? I remember when parents knew they were the source for making their children feel loved and beautiful. I recall, it seems like only yesterday, when dolls were toys, not causes; escapes from reality, not reminders of one's difficult plight in life. I'm so old school.

Incongruently, the proponents of a bald Barbie suggest accessories, like wigs, scarves and hats. "You're bald, you're beautiful. Now, here are some nifty items to cover that noggin." I'm still trying to figure out the thought process there.

Many of the folks in favor of this are fervent, ardent...vicious. I deigned to disagree online with these concerned citizens about a bald Barbie and their threats of a Mattel boycott if their demands are not met. Such hellfire and brimstone were heaped upon me by these tender-hearted souls as to bring to mind the archaic expression "tarred and feathered."

People don't like their bubbles burst, I know. "Liking" a "cause" on Facebook makes folks feel so good about themselves with a click of a mouse. It is an easy pat on the back. But it is an empty gesture, nothing more. Faith, hope and love are the keys to endurance in trying times. One doesn't get that from a doll. It is the parents' job, not Mattel's, to make their children feel accepted and loved. Hug them, kiss their little bald heads and tell them they are beautiful. People may still stare when you are in public. To think they won't because of a bald doll is a pipe dream. But, it won't matter if your children know they are beautiful, loved and adored. You provide that comfort to them. It is your job.

Imagine the truly life-changing difference it would make to cancer-stricken children if all those "likes" donated to cancer organizations or visited patients on an oncology unit. That, however, takes effort. Sadly, we are becoming a nation of "likes," without substance. As The Bard said, "...sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Hohn charles

This is a major opportunity for Mattel as well as for a savvy retailer.
Target or ToysRUS should agree to carry the doll as an exclusive.
They could make a low run, say 25,000-50,000 and have them on shelves within 6 months. They could then ride the wave of positive publicity to the bank.

Also, just as Barbie had the friend in a wheelchair, this doll should be Barbie's friend.

Michelle Spelman

Interesting update.....

This was just posted by the administrators of the "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" facebook page:

"Mattel recently reached out to us and invited us to a meeting at their headquarters in Los Angeles. It was a really positive experience and was really great and nice to meet face-to-face with members of the Barbie team and from the Mattel's Children's Foundation. The goal of meeting was to start a dialogue about our campaign. We are thrilled that Mattel agreed to keep the conversation going. We will report back when we have more information."

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