When the image of Barbie clad in a black-and-white striped swimsuit came out on a billboard in Times Square, New York, parents were quick to air their criticisms. The ad had the hashtag #unapologetic set above the release date of where the famous doll would make its appearance: in the 50th anniversary issue of Sports Illustrated.
In the magazine, set to be out on newsstands February 18th, Barbie will be appearing in a four-page advertising feature, wearing the same swimsuit that she wore when the doll line was released in 1959. The outfit at the time was considered extremely sensual and Barbie was thus deemed a rebellious icon. For the very same reason was the tie-up between Mattel and Sports Illustrated developed, with Barbie heralded as “the doll who started it all”. The swimsuit trend, that is.
Since the billboards’ appearance, the campaign has received flak because it purportedly sets impossible physical standards for girls, and promotes highly sexualized images meant for adults.
A spokeswoman from Mattel was quick to defend the collaboration, though, as stated in an interview with CNN:
“This is not a program targeted towards girls. As a brand that is always a part of the cultural conversation, Barbie, for the first time, has an active voice in the debate with her #unapologetic stance. The goal of the campaign is to empower fans to engage and celebrate all that makes them who they are.
“As a legend herself, Barbie has always been a lightning rod for controversy and opinions. Posing in SI gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are and celebrate what they have accomplished.”
These fellow “legends” include models such as Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley, Heidi Klum and Cindy Crawford, who have all posed in swimsuits for the cover of Sports Illustrated.
See a “behind-the-scenes” video on the cover shoot here:
• February 12, 2014. “At 55, Barbie makes history as SI Swimsuit’s first Rookie-Legend” swimdaily.si.com
• February 14, 2014. “Sports Illustrated’s issue featuring a swimsuit-clad Barbie on the cover angers parents” ibnlive.in.com
• February 14, 2014. Emanuella Grinberg. “Barbie strikes an ‘unapologetic’ pose” edition.cnn.com