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CFDA Awards: Barbie Picks Up Tribute Award From Yara Shahidi


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Even as she celebrates her 60th birthday, Barbie shows no signs of slowing down, and at Monday night’s CFDA Awards at the Brooklyn Museum, the Council of Fashion Designers of America recognized both her influence and her commitment to evolve, bestowing the iconic fashion doll with its Board of Directors Tribute Award. 

It’s the first time a non-human has received this particular CFDA Award — in 2015, Instagram received the organization’s Media Award — but outgoing chairman Diane von Furstenberg said the doll, which made its debut in 1959, is more than worthy. “She’s a woman in charge, and that’s what we want,” she told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. (In fact, Barbie donned a custom DVF dress on Instagram, where she was pictured going to the CFDA Awards, posing on the red carpet with the Jennifer Lopez Barbie, and receiving her award.)

Indeed, Barbie’s evolution over six decades from fashion model to doctor, astronaut — in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon — and as a presidential candidate in 1992 demonstrates how the doll has remained a favorite partly because she allows girls and boys alike to envision a variety of careers. “Barbie is about fashion, but she’s also about impact, which is why it’s so important that she’s not just a part of young people lives, but that she’s changing those lives for the better,” said Yara Shahidi, who presented the award to Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s senior vp and global brand general manager for Barbie. 

And some of those lives, McKnight said, likely were in the room on Monday night. “This recognition is a reminder that Barbie has always been more than a toy — Barbie is an idea, an idea that started with our founder, Ruth Handler, a visionary and creative force of nature and an entrepreneur at a time when women weren’t even allowed to cash their own checks,” McKnight said. “Sixty years ago, she created the Barbie with the philosophy that through the doll a little girl could be anything she wanted to be. I know for many of you, Barbie was your first model, your first muse, your first canvas, your first creative partner, she sparked your imagination, perhaps even inspired you to imagine what you could become.” 

In a video released by the CFDA on Twitter, fashion designer Prabal Gurung called Barbie “the first social influencer” while Zac Posen added, “She’s Insta-ready.” Over the years, an impressive list of designers have dressed Barbie, from von Furstenberg, Posen and Bob Mackie (who won the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday night)  to Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Vera Wang, Jeremy Scott and Anna Sui.

In March, Shahidi also enjoyed the Barbie treatment as one of several women interpreted as part of the brand’s Shero collection, dolls inspired by real-life female heroes. Other recent debuts from the El Segundo-based Mattel include a 2015 limited-edition Ava DuVernay Barbie doll that sold out in one hour, followed by dolls in the likeness of musician-actress Zendaya, curvy supermodel Ashley Graham in 2016, and an Adwoa Aboah Barbie also in March, all efforts by the company to showcase a more diverse array of women. “I gotta be honest, it’s pretty cool to have a Barbie doll that looks just like me,” Shahidi said. “But what’s even more exciting than that is that young people around the world of every shape, size and background have a Barbie that actually reflects them. A new generation of Barbie is inspiring a new generation of girls and boys.” 

McKnight said the Shero dolls are designed to put a spotlight on positive role models, “a range of athletes and authors and artists to show girls these amazing women and give them more exposure and awareness,” she explained, adding that the program will continue to grow to reflect inclusivity and diversity. “We’ll be shining a light on not only women doing interesting things, especially in the field of STEM, but also looking at women who are physically disabled and given more exposure. And next year is an Olympic year, so we might be looking at some Shero athletes as well. What everyone has always known about Barbie is that the possibilities are endless.” 

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