Harambee, brothers and sisters in struggle! With the blessing of another year comes another chance to celebrate our nappy ass roots and search the forgotten annals of black history. For the last few years, we’ve been bringing you the wildly informative and 100% true and accurate* series Know Your History, wherein we tell you the truth about things you thought you knew.
First, we take a look at the embattled history of Christie, the first black Barbie doll.
The iconic Barbie Doll was officially born on March 9, 1959. Created by Ruth Handler and named after her daughter, Barbara, Barbie was based on the Bild Lili doll, a blond haired, blue eyed German bombshell.
As time progressed, Barbie’s world changed–she became a doctor, an astronaut, a dentist, and a SCUBA instructor. She found a boyfriend, got a little sister, and made friends. But one thing seemed to stay consistent–the lack of cultural diversity in this world. People began to take notice during the Black Power movement of the 60s and 70s, and when word of Barbie’s German ancestry slipped, rumors of Nazism and white supremacy began to swirl. To save her image, Barbie’s PR team pressed her to make a black friend to prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she wasn’t racist (because that’s what having at least one black friend does). Her handlers imported Christie, a doll from Detroit to fill the void.
Born La’Chrysanthemum Nichole Jackson, she became Christie because Barbie and her camp thought it was “cuter” and “friendlier.” They also told everyone she was from Malibu, made her straighten her hair, and put her on a strict diet and workout regimen to keep her proportions as unrealistic as Barbie’s. They were often pictured by the paparazzi looking happy and chummy, but in truth, their relationship was quite contemptuous. Christie resented being made to fit the mold of the white doll standard of beauty, and Barbie resented Christie for not being white. Christie withstood the humiliation for as long as she could because she was richly compensated; what would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on the bedroom floor because he’s hungry?
Eventually, Christie had enough of being made to do embarrassing, offensive shit like this and called it quits. She moved back home to Detroit, went natural, and is currently lobbying to get Mattel on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group watch list. She is also writing a tell-all entitled “Of White Women and Smooth Vaginas: The Plight of a Black Doll in an American Toy Store.”
Barbie and Mattel only marginally acknowledge Christie’s existence, illustrated in the fact that Barbie and all of her people have their own Wikipedia pages–except Christie.
Know Your History.
*more like true-ish and accurate-y.