Misty Copeland made history last summer when she became the first African American woman to hold the title of principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), solidifying her position as a living legend and inspiration to young girls everywhere. Today, she found another way to be a role model: as a Barbie doll in Mattel’s “Sheroes” collection.
“I always dreamed of becoming an ABT ballerina and through Barbie I was able to play out those dreams early on,” said Copeland in a statement. “It’s an honor to be able to inspire the next generation of kids with my very own Barbie doll.”
While Barbie hasn’t historically been a feminist favorite, recent efforts to introduce dolls of different races and more realistic proportions, as well as the new “Sheroes” collection, which features Barbies modeled after inspiring women—such as Copeland, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and outspoken feminist actor Zendaya—have improved the brand’s image, at least marginally. The Copeland doll continues this trend—the dancer says she was heavily involved in her Barbie’s creation.
“I was hands-on with making sure that she really looked like a dancer and looked like me,” Copeland said on Good Morning America. “She has muscles, and calves, and thighs and a bust. That was important to me.”
Copeland, who has been called “an unlikely ballerina,” grew up in Los Angeles—the daughter of a single mom of six—and didn’t get her start as a dancer until age 13 (most ballerinas begin dancing around age 3 or 4). As an African American with a body type that’s considered “curvy” in ballet, she battled deep-rooted stereotypes about what it means to be a dancer throughout her career—but triumphantly rose to the top. Her Barbie doll, like her appearance in the Under Armor commercial above, are examples of her commercial success and widespread visibility.
The Copeland Barbie’s outfit is inspired by the real-life dancer’s costume in “Firebird,” the first ABT performance in which Copeland danced as a principal. She will reprise the roll later this month in New York; in the meantime, the doll is available for pre-order on Mattel’s website and retails for $29.95.