Barbie hit the shelves in 1959 and she’s been an icon ever since. In fact, according to Time magazine, 92% of American girls aged 3-12 have owned a Barbie. The astronaut/firefighter/president has been an inspiration to young people everywhere.
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices,” said creator Ruth Handler about the history of Barbie.
Barbie’s dabbled in every career possible but is always on and off with mostly just one beau: Ken.
Here’s a relationship timeline of our favourite plastic couple.
March 9, 1959: Barbie entered the New York Toy Fair.
Teenage fashion model Ms. Barbie Millicent Roberts from Willows, Wisconsin made her debut. She was sold for $US3.00 at the time and in 2006, a mint condition edition sold for $US27,450. Her first commercial aired during the Mickey Mouse Club.
1960: Barbie landed her first job.
From model to fashion designer, Barbie knew how to dress for the office in a smart pink two-piece set.
March 11, 1961: Ken arrived on the scene.
Officially “born” on March 11, Ken is a Pisces; “loyal, supportive, compassionate and a DREAMER.” From Mattel’s lore, he is named after founders Ruth and Elliot Handler’s son, Ken, and met Barbie on the set of their first television commercial together, where it was love at first sight. Clad in just red swim trunks with a yellow towel, the two versions of Ken that were originally sold were blonde Ken and brunette Ken, both with blue eyes and plastic hair.
In the 1960’s, fictional novels were published with backstories for Barbie and friends. Ken Carson was originally resigned to always be her on-again, off-again boyfriend, according to ThoughtCo. The first year of their relationship, Barbie stayed quite busy, holding positions as a professional ballerina, flight attendant, registered nurse, and singer.
1971: Barbie got a tan and looked at Ken from a new angle.
Mattel’s ’70s Malibu Barbie was a feminist. She debuted “with a new face sculpt, including the addition of an open smile with pearly white teeth, and, thanks to the groundswell of the feminist movement and female empowerment, her sparkling blue eyes faced-forward for the first time. Malibu Barbie was the ultimate surfer girl- suntanned with long, straight hair.”
1974: They moved into a townhouse.
Barbie and Ken’s first home together, a three-story townhouse featured brightly coloured decor, an elevator, and a jacuzzi.
1978: Barbie and Ken made the ultimate disco couple.
“Superstar” Barbie took Ken with her to her movie premieres and photoshoots. Her best-selling career was as a fashion model from 1977-1983. They were the ultimate disco couple.
1979: Barbie and Ken got tans and matching monogrammed swimsuits.
The pair are huge fans of the beach.
1984: Barbie and Ken sported prom outfits.
The two of them, of course, were the stars of their prom in Wisconsin.
1992: Totally Hair Barbie and Ken became bestsellers.
The best-selling Barbie doll ever is unleashed, with blonde tresses from her head to her toes, at 10 and a half inches long. Ken has longer-than-usual dirty blonde hair and a matching groovy neon top to her funky boat-necked mini. She also was announced as a presidential candidate for the first time.
1997: Barbie and Ken were parodied by Aqua in the hit song, “Barbie Girl.”
MCA Records was sued by Mattel for sullying Barbie’s reputation with sexual themes and violating Mattel’s copyright on “Barbie pink,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
About the lawsuit, Sean Fitzgerald, vice president of corporate communications for Mattel, said “‘We have been in contact with Mca’s attorneys. I can’t characterise the nature of the discussions, but we have certainly expressed our dissatisfaction.”
According to Billboard, the case was ultimately thrown out.
1998: They moved into a deluxe dreamhouse.
With a Victorian-style turret, a swing, and glass-stained windows, this is Barbie and Ken’s most luxe home yet.
1999: Barbie starred in “Toy Story 2.”
After the success of its predecessor, Mattel authorised her use in the sequel. Barbie showed off her comedic chops as a tour guide and on the blooper reel in “Toy Story 2.”
February 14, 2004: Barbie and Ken officially broke up.
Mattel confirmed that American’s favourite plastic couple parted ways on Valentine’s Day in 2004.
Barbie took some time for herself in California and was seen on dates with radio DJ Blaine, an Australian boogie boarder, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The newspaper assigned the split to Ken’s failure to commit and Barbie’s excitement to commit, wearing multiple wedding gowns. This was also a year that Barbie ran for president, so she was quite busy.
2006: Ken got a makeover from designer, Phillip Bloch.
One blonde version was an homage to his beach boy roots and the other dark-haired foil resembles the songwriters of the mid-2000’s like Josh Groban, Gavin DeGraw, and Daniel Powter; the latter was explicitly designed to be the one to win her back.
2010: Ken made his big screen debut in “Toy Story 3.”
Ken had more than 50 outfit changes in the highly-grossing successful and nostalgic film. Barbie and Ken’s “love at first sight” meeting was just like their original meeting.
February 14, 2011: Barbie and Ken got back together.
On Valentine’s Day in 2011, Ken finally won her back after “a series of grand gestures that included everything from personalised cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery to billboards professing [his] love.” Mattel put up actual billboards advertising their reunion in major cities.
June 19, 2015: Barbie started vlogging.
Ken is supportive of her online presence and occasionally joins her to bake cupcakes or hang out.
January 2016: Barbie came in different shapes and sizes.
Curvy, tall, and petite versions of Barbie were revealed in 2016. The Barbie “Fashionistas” came in a variety of skin tones with different hair tones to reflect the diversity of American women.
2018: Barbie and Ken are happily together for now.
Barbie is busy promoting The Dream Gap Project, “a global initiative that aims to give girls the resources and support they need to continue to believe that they can be anything.”
She no longer matches outfits with NextGen Ken, who is a fan of patterns and occasionally sports a man-bun. According to Ken Carson, his hair has been “flocked, moulded and dyed nine different colours over the years including auburn, black, blond, brown, brunette, light brown, red, two-tone and yellow (yes, yellow).”
Barbie and Ken may forever go back and forth on wanting to be together or needing some space to pursue their iconic careers.
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