For over six decades, Barbie has reigned as one of the most iconic toys, sparking imagination and inspiration in countless young minds. However, the beloved doll has not been without its fair share of criticism, with concerns over its limited diversity and promotion of unrealistic beauty standards. In recent years, however, the winds of change have blown through Barbie’s world, leading to a transformation that champions inclusivity and empowerment.
Aminah Ali, a trailblazing British-Pakistani model, is making waves in Barbie’s latest cinematic venture. The film, directed by Greta Gerwig, holds the distinction of being the highest-grossing film directed by a woman and is causing ripples of excitement and reflection worldwide. Ali’s involvement is particularly noteworthy. As a young girl, she yearned for dolls that mirrored her heritage, but found herself yearning in vain. Fast forward to the present, and Ali is standing on the threshold of a new era for Barbie.
Journey from Dolls to Dolls on Screen
Ali’s journey from playing with dolls to being featured among a diverse ensemble of women on the silver screen underscores the power of representation. She was scouted through Bame, a London modeling agency focusing on Asian and black models, highlighting the importance of specialized agencies that recognize and celebrate diversity. Ali’s presence in the film might be brief, but it holds monumental significance. In a scene aptly titled “Row of Barbies,” the array of girls on set, each a unique reflection of their own background, resonated deeply with Ali. This representation, previously absent in her childhood, instilled a sense of ease and belonging within her.
The film’s narrative and casting choices signify a marked departure from Barbie’s historical lack of diversity. Mattel, the company behind Barbie, has heeded the call for change. In the face of criticisms for promoting unrealistic beauty ideals, the brand has taken a proactive stance, embracing inclusivity with open arms. Recent years have witnessed the emergence of new Barbie versions that reflect the multitude of body shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds that compose the real world. Notably, a hijab-wearing Barbie modeled after American-Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made her debut in 2017, symbolizing a shift toward broader representation.
Three Muslim Women, One Powerful Message
Ali is not alone in her pursuit of elevating diversity on screen. She shares her cinematic space with two other Muslim women, Fatumina Said Akbar and Khadeejah Khan, all of whom are represented by Bame. The film’s directorial vision, marked by a celebration of feminism, finds resonance in the inclusive cast. While some critics question the film’s alignment with “Islamic values,” the portrayal of intersectional feminism through characters like America Ferrera’s Gloria exemplifies the film’s intent to traverse the complex tapestry of womanhood.
Rewarding and Inclusive Journey
Ali’s experience in the film has been nothing short of transformative. Her call time at 5 am and a 15-hour set day were markers of dedication, and her presence in the film served as an embodiment of the changing tides. As a digital content creator, fashion enthusiast, and advocate for diversity, Ali embodies the spirit of progress that Barbie now embodies. Her role in the film serves as a testament to the power of representation, proving that young viewers are empowered when they see themselves on the screen.
As the film makes its way into cinemas, it carries the promise of a new chapter for Barbie – one that embraces diversity, challenges stereotypes, and champions individuality. Ali’s journey from childhood yearnings to her pivotal role in this film encapsulates the transformative journey that Barbie herself has undertaken. The road ahead is paved with opportunities for more voices, backgrounds, and stories to be celebrated. With each stride toward inclusivity, Barbie proves that there is no singular definition of beauty, and that every girl, regardless of her background, can find her place in the world of imagination and inspiration.