Apparently, Barbie dolls are still a thing in 2019 — because why wouldn't they be? Well, for starters, the dolls have been called out for reinforcing a bunch of gender-related ideologies: gender binary is one thing, gender-roles is another. Can't forget the reinforcement of beauty standards with every miniature plastic toy released; Barbie attempted to change that by introducing dolls with different body shapes and colors. Still, that didn't really fix the underlying problem with Barbie, but that's another story for another time.
In short, Barbie is still around and it's trying really hard to be inclusive of all things — be it religion, race, body types, what have you. A hijabi Barbie came to life in 2017, modeled after Muslim-American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. And now, a Saudi Barbie has made its way to the market.
The doll is a plastic replica of professional chef Louloua El-Ezzah, the first Saudi woman to get a simulated doll modeled after her. The multinational toy company Mattel marked its 60th anniversary this year; in other words, it took 60 years to get a Saudi-inspired doll made.
Barbie officially made its way to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s and has faced temporary bans twice (1995 and 2003) in the kingdom, according to Arab News. But it wasn't until 2019 that Saudis got a doll that looks and feels like one of their own.
Enter Loulou's Kitchen
Who is Louloua El-Ezzah?
Based in Jeddah, El-Ezzah runs a culinary school called Loulou's Kitchen where she offers people cooking classes covering various cuisines including Thai, Japanese, and Italian.
"I was really happy to have joined the Mattel Barbie list of inspiring women," she said, according to Al Araby.
Though her journey was not planned from day one, El-Ezzah has certainly cooked up an entrepreneurial storm since her start. She rose to fame following her appearance on the reality TV show "Top Chef Middle East" in 2011.
"I really wanted more girls to know about this field as a career option. I wanted to convince more women to get into this, and that pushed me to continue what I was doing," she told Arab News in an interview last year. She went from being passionate about food to making a career out of that craving.
Putting aside all the controversy revolved around Barbie dolls, it is pretty notable that El-Ezzah has been celebrated by Mattel. But the company's "Role Models" collection - aka dolls based on real-life humans - is not going to cancel out the problematic aspects enfolded in each and every doll.
The drastic drop in sales of Barbies in recent years is proof that it is no longer a Barbie's world and life in plastic is clearly not fantastic.