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Barbie will soon be 60 – and is still going strong

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Blonde or brunette, slender or curvy, black or white, princess or president, Barbie is a forever favourite for young girls, even if she has caused controversy over the years.

The iconic doll has evolved to keep up with the times – check out her Twitter feed.

And despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbies are sold each year in more than 150 countries.

“In an industry where success today is three to five years, 60 years is a huge deal!” said Nathan Baynard, director of global brand marketing for Barbie.

Around the world, Barbie is as universally known as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, Baynard said during a recent visit to Mattel’s design studio in El Segundo, a suburb of Los Angeles.

In all, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959.

She was invented by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, who was inspired by her own children to create the doll. Barbie is, of course, a shortened version of Barbara.

The doll was supposed to teach girls “that they had choices, that they could be anything. In 1959, it was a radical idea!” Baynard said.

Barbie was an instant success. In the first year, 300,000 dolls were sold, he added.

Barbie is not only a toy store success – she has a massive social media presence, and is something of an “influencer,” with millions of followers.

She has an actual identity: Barbie Millicent Roberts, who hails from the made-up town of Willows in the Midwest.

And now, she speaks directly to girls about her life, and important current topics.

In 2018, the brand launched a sweeping campaign to help young girls close the so-called “Dream Gap” – using Barbie to teach them to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes.

Barbie has a hair stylist, makeup artist and photographer who travel with her “for real” in the US and abroad for Instagram photo sessions (check out @barbiestyle).

The account has nearly two million followers.