NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is immortalized as a Barbie doll. (Mattel Photo)
“Hidden Figures” mathematician Katherine Johnson may have missed out on the Lego toy treatment, but she and 16 other women are getting the Barbie doll treatment just in time for International Women’s Day.
Today Mattel announced that it’s rolling out 17 new Barbie dolls — including 14 one-of-a-kind dolls that are styled after modern-day role models for its “Shero” program (a mashup of “she” and “hero”), plus a new line called “Inspiring Women” that pays tribute to historical role models.
Johnson, a 99-year-old black mathematician whose work at NASA was featured in the hit movie “Hidden Figures,” is included as one of the Inspiring Women, along with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and pioneering American aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Mattel commissioned a survey of 8,000 mothers with daughters aged 10 or younger, and found that 81 percent of them worried about the types of role models their children were exposed to.
“We are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything,” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager for the Barbie line at Mattel, said in a news release.
In its sales blurb, Mattel says Johnson’s Barbie “celebrates the achievements of a pioneer who broke through barriers of race and gender.”
Johnson was also included in a set of five proposed Lego minifigures honoring women scientists and explorers associated with NASA. But the final set, released by Lego late last year, didn’t include her. It eventually came out that Lego couldn’t get the required approval from Johnson and her family.
Did the fact that Johnson was destined for the Barbie doll treatment play a part in all that? Hard to tell, but in any case, it looks as if this toy story has a happy ending.
Here’s a list of the women immortalized this year as “Shero” Barbie dolls. These dolls aren’t going on sale but are being given to the women who inspired them:
- Patty Jenkins, ‘Wonder Woman’ director, USA – The first woman in history to helm a film with a budget in excess of $100 million.
- Chloe Kim, snowboarding champion, USA – First-generation Asian-American snowboarding champion and, at 17, the youngest woman to win a gold medal in snowboarding at the 2018 Olympics.
- Bindi Irwin, conservationist, Australia – Wildlife conservationist and celebrity who inherited her father’s passion for wildlife and is dedicated to inspiring the next generation.
- Nicola Adams, boxing champion, Britain – Two-time gold medalist who is Britain’s most successful female boxer of all time and the only female boxer in the history of the sport to have held all four amateur titles.
- Çağla Kubat, windsurfer, Turkey – Champion windsurfer and member of the Fenerbahçe sailing and windsurfing team who founded her own windsurfing school for young surfers.
- Hélène Darroze, chef, France – Fourth-generation French chef with three restaurants and two Michelin stars.
- Hui Ruoqi, volleyball champion, China – Captain of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team, who won gold in the 2016 Olympics.
- Leyla Piedayesh, designer and entrepreneur, Germany – Iranian immigrant and founder of fashion label lala Berlin, which incorporates urban-cool and elegant-chic elements in high-quality knitwear.
- Lorena Ochoa, professional golfer, Mexico – Athlete, mother, entrepreneur and promoter of golf in Mexico.
- Martyna Wojciechowska, journalist, Poland – TV presenter, magazine editor, author, director and the second Polish woman to conquer the Seven Summits.
- Sara Gama, soccer player, Italy – Captain of Juventus and the Italian national soccer team.
- Xiaotong Guan, actress and philanthropist, China – Ambassador for “World Life Day,” a joint campaign by the U.N. Environment Program, International Fund for Animal Welfare and The Nature Conservancy, and known as the “Nation’s Daughter” in China.
- Yuan Tan, ballet dancer, China – Prima ballerina and principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet and guest principal dancer at the Hong Kong Ballet.
- Vicky Martin Berrocal, entrepreneur and fashion designer, Spain – Leads the creative direction for the Victoria fashion line with collections that include festive costumes, flamenco dresses, gowns, handbags and jewelry.
The “Inspiring Women” dolls will retail for $29.99 online and in stores. The new “Shero” dolls join others that have been released since 2015. Some of them, such as the dolls inspired by Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, have gone into wider production.
Hat tip to CollectSpace’s Robert Z. Pearlman.