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Madam C.J. Walker, the first U.S. self-made female millionaire, gets her own Barbie

Madam C.J. Walker is the latest woman to join Barbie's Inspiring Women collection. Walker's great-great-granddaughter worked with Barbie to incorporate details from the pioneering businesswoman's life.
Mattel
Madam C.J. Walker is the latest woman to join Barbie's Inspiring Women collection. Walker's great-great-granddaughter worked with Barbie to incorporate details from the pioneering businesswoman's life.

Madam C.J. Walker is joining Barbie's lineup of Inspiring Women dolls.

Walker, often referred to as the nation's first documented self-made female millionaire, was known for her entrepreneurial skills as she built her haircare and cosmetic brand from scratch.

But aside from her beauty empire, Walker was also known for her philanthropic and social justice efforts, including her contributions to the NAACP anti-lynching movement. It's Walker's whole story that her great-great-grandaughter A'Lelia Bundles hopes younger generations will learn about through the new doll.

"I hope that when little girls and little boys pick up the doll, that they will see something that's a little different than just a generic doll, that this is a doll who comes with a backstory," Bundles told NPR. "And as an entrepreneur and as a boss and as a philanthropist and a patron of the arts and somebody who cared about social justice, that they will perhaps see themselves and take one of those narratives."

As the official biographer of Walker, Bundles worked with Barbie on creating the doll.

Her input and knowledge helped in the creation of Walker's vibrant outfit that showcases the entrepreneur's favorite colors — purple and turquoise — as well as the hair and the packaging of the doll which features a historical photo of Walker's Villa Lewaro residence, a gathering place for people during the Harlem Renaissance. The doll even comes with a mini replica of Walker's original Wonderful Hair Grower product — an ointment that helped with many scalp issues.

Madam Walker's great-great-granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles worked with Barbie to create the new doll.
/ A'Lelia Bundles
/
A'Lelia Bundles
Madam Walker's great-great-granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles worked with Barbie to create the new doll.

Bundles shared memories about her first Black doll and the significance of having Black representation in the toy industry.

"It means a lot that a child can look at a doll, can have a doll that looks like them," Bundles said. "And it doesn't mean that Black children should only have Black dolls and white children should only have white dolls. ... But I like the idea of children really being able to have somebody who looks like them ... so that they know that they're part of the world."

Walker joins the ranks of Ida B. Wells, Billie Jean King, Jane Goodall and many other innovative women who also have had Barbies made in their likenesses.

"As a pioneer in entrepreneurship, philanthropy and activism, creating the blueprint for the self-made American businesswoman and innovators of the twentieth century, Madam C.J. Walker is an embodiment of our Barbie Inspiring Women series," Lisa McKnight, execute vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls for Mattel said in a statement.

The doll is available on Amazon and Walmart.com for $35.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.