Have you ever met a woman who beat Neil Armstrong to the moon, acted as a muse to Andy Warhol, and ran for president seven times? You have now. When our co-founder, Ruth Handler, observed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls for hours and hours, she saw the future. In a time when she, as a woman, was not allowed to cut her own checks, she created a doll that would show the world and girls everywhere they had choices. Creating an entirely new category, the Barbie® doll was designed to be dressed and styled, allowing girls to explore their future through play.

creations collaborator

Cristina Martinez is an artist who typically uses painting as her main form of self-expression. She gravitates toward thought-provoking, self-portraits, and reimagines the very first Barbie® doll as part of a modern crew stylishly represented by women of color.

She describes her art as, "I'm always growing and learning [and] my artistic style is still developing. I always tell people that I'm finding it, but I'm never looking for it. One thing that's really solid in my work and my creative process is the art of storytelling and my mission. I like to incorporate my own experiences, and the experiences of the people around me that I feel have to work a little bit harder to be seen and heard. So, a lot of my work revolves around shedding light on these experiences and stories that have impacted me in my own personal journey."

Barbie® is near and dear to our hearts, can you tell us about your connection to her?

"This piece really means a lot to me. I definitely grew up playing [with] Barbies. A lot of Barbies I had were hand-me-downs that had their hair cut off and tattoos drawn on them, or ones that weren't played with as much — ones my cousin experimented on. That developed my love for a Barbie that was a little more edgy and different. I have a six-year-old daughter now that loves Barbie. Seeing the difference from when I was younger and what’s available now with all the diversity, is just super inspiring. It really aligns with my work, shedding light on a wide range of people, and I was excited about doing this piece."

We love your piece! Can you tell us what inspired you to interpret Barbie this way?

"I was inspired by the documentary ‘Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie’ because it showed a very real, raw side of Barbie. One thing that stuck out to me was when they showed the first Barbie ever created. She had fair skin and was wearing this black-and-white striped outfit, and it was her shining moment where she became an icon.

"I took that moment and created that experience for a more diverse group of women, and for Barbie. I'm always telling the stories of women and putting the spotlight on women, especially Black and brown women. I thought it was cool to give that moment to more people, and I reflected that in my work."

We’ve had so much fun partnering with you on this project. What was it like to work with a company like Mattel?

"It's honestly been a dream. It's so nice to see people that are still passionate about what they're doing, and who allowed me the space to put a spotlight on Black and brown Barbies, because it's very important right now. The world is really listening to that story right now and understanding why Black and brown stories are so important. They knew I would speak to diversity, and I wanted to make sure I really used this opportunity to do that. They made it very easy for me, which I appreciate."

Cristina Martinez paints her Barbie painting on canvas while her son and daughter draw in the corner
Cristina Martinez dips her paint brush into a jar of bright pink paint
Cristina Martinez applies pink paint with brush to her Barbie painting
Self portrait of Cristina Martinez on table along with paint and art supplies
Cristina Martinez sits on chair with her son and daughter in her lap smiling