Guwahati: Barbie needs no introduction. Manufactured by American company Mattel, it has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for over 50 years. Who doesn’t know the svelte figurines with striking blue eyes that are a favourite among kids?
Over the years, these dolls are becoming a beaming source of inspiration for many. One such is that of Nalini Nadkarni.
Nadkarni, an Indian-American ecologist who pioneered the study of Costa Rican rain forest canopies, is now the subject of Barbie’s latest creations.
Mattel, in collaboration with Nadkarni and National Geographic, has come out with the new range of Barbie dolls as a representation of women of colour in ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)‘ professions.
The doll is equipped with a complete technical gear of the likes of helmet, binoculars, boots, and jacket. The doll looks like a complete lookalike of the scientist in her professional gear.
Nadkarni is an ecologist who pioneered the study of Costa Rican rain forest canopies. A scientist at the University of Utah, she dedicates a lot of her time researching about canopies which are the extreme top part of the trees. Her research has helped shape our understanding of canopy soils. These are the types of soil that forms on the tree trunks and branches. These are made up of dead animals and dead canopy plants which decompose in the place and are rich in nutrients.
The story behind the dolls is equally interesting, to say the least. After realising that there weren’t many women in her field she and her lab colleagues came up with the idea of TreeTop Barbie which could be marketed to young girls. However, Mattel rejected the idea due to their lack of interest in the early 2000s. Not discouraged by this, she decided to make the dolls on her own and started using second-hand Barbie dolls. Commissioning a tailor who made the clothes for the TreeTop Barbies she started selling those dolls and even brought them to her conferences and lectures.
Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed as The New York Times took her story to their pages which then got to Mattel’s knowledge. They again tried to shut down the Barbie’s for brand infringement issue. Even this time she pushed back and continued to make her version of Barbies.
It was more than a decade later in 2018 that she got a call from National Geographic which gave her the news of their partnership with Mattel to produce these dolls on a massive scale. And like a cherry atop a sundae they wanted Nadkarni to be an advisor.