The figure of the iconic author, which is now available at Target, Amazon and on the Barbie website, features Angelou — who passed away in 2014 — in a floor-length dress and donning one of her signature head wraps. It also comes with a mini replica of her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
"Maya Angelou Barbie doll is being presented to honor the history and impact of Dr. Maya Angelou's activism, work and achievements," the toymaker, Mattel, stated. "Barbie sculpted to her likeness and dressed in a head wrap and dress with floral print, Maya Angelou Barbie doll features a curvy body and articulation for endless posing possibilities."
— Steve White (@Stevearts89) January 14, 2021
Angelou is remembered as a writer, author, activist and teacher who received numerous awards and accolades, including over 50 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a National Book Award nomination for her 1970 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. As one of her many groundbreaking moments, the world-renowned writer made history in 1993, becoming the first Black American and female poet to speak at a U.S. Presidential inauguration. She died when she was 86.
"With displayable packaging, this celebration of Dr. Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life and work makes a great gift for Barbie collectors," the company stated.
The other women who are featured in the series include Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Billie Jean King, Ella Fitzgerald, Florence Nightingale and Susan B. Anthony, according to Romper.
"Barbie recognizes all female role models," the company stated. "The Inspiring Women Series pays tribute to incredible heroines of their time; courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before."
Barbie has also launched another initiative known as the Barbie Dream Gap Project, which aims “to support girls in reaching their limitless potential through research, curriculum, programming, and funding."
The latest initiatives from Barbie signal a shift from the company's traditional dolls, which are often presented as blonde and thin. As part of its effort to push for equality, the toymaker published a YouTube video in which Barbie and her Black friend, Nikki, talk about white privilege.
The "Barbie and Nikki Discuss Racism" video, which was published amid the Black Lives Matter protests of last year, highlights some examples of the challenges Black Americans face on a daily basis.
"Barbie and I had a sticker-selling contest on the beach last month," Nikki says in the video. "We split up and went our separate directions to see who could sell the most. While I was on the boardwalk, beach security stopped me three times. The security officer thought I was doing something bad, even though I was doing exactly the same thing that you were doing."
Nikki also talks about a teacher in the French honor club, who told her that she was only there because she "got lucky" on an entrance exam. As the conversation continues, Barbie demonstrates how white people can listen and understand.
"And they don't make those assumptions about white people, like me," the white doll says. "That's not fair, because that means that white people get an advantage that they didn't earn, and Black people get a disadvantage that they don't deserve."