Story at a glance

  • Maya Angelou was an American poet, writer and civil rights activist.
  • Mattel is honoring her with a Barbie doll in her likeness and memory.
  • The doll is the 10th in the Inspiring Women Series, which has featured Ella Fitzgerald and Rosa Parks among others.

Decades after Maya Angelou became the first African American and female poet to speak at a U.S. Presidential inauguration, the first Black woman elected as vice president was sworn in. For Black girls everywhere, their precedent presents possibilities to play with. 


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A new Barbie doll modeled after Maya Angelou's likeness might also be the first to don a head wrap, with its floral pattern matched to a caftan over what Mattel described as a "curvy" body type. The doll, which also bears a golden ring, bracelet, watch and earrings, is holding a miniature replica of Angelou's autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which was nominated for a National Book Award upon publication in 1970.  

"Barbie® recognizes all female role models. The Inspiring Women™ Series pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time; courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before," said Mattel, which released the tenth doll in the series on Jan. 14 as a "celebration of Dr. Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life and work." 


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The doll is already sold out "due to high demand," despite a limit of two dolls per person, and some shared their disappointment on the sale page, asking why they made "too few" of this Black doll. Ella Fitzgerald and Rosa Parks are two other Black dolls featured in the series, which also includes Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Billie Jean King and Sally Ride. 

"We need more role models like Dr. Angelou, because imagining you can be anything is just the beginning. Actually seeing that you can makes all the difference," said Mattel in a release.


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Published on Jan 20, 2021