LIFESTYLE

Barbie To Appear On Sports Illustrated Magazine Cover For 50th Anniversary Special

13/02/2014 10:02 GMT | Updated 13/02/2014 10:59 GMT

"The doll that started it all," reads the strapline of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Barbie, marking the start of Mattel's Unapologetic campaign.

What, you may wonder, is the 'all'?

2013 saw a lot of anti-Barbie stories, from protests at the opening of Barbie's Dreamhouse in Germany, mocked-up versions of a plus-size doll and endless debates about how damaging Barbie is for little girls' perception of body image.

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The doll company is hitting back, and apparently, this 22-doll spread in the magazine, and the cover shot will feature Barbie in a new version of the striped one-piece swimsuit she wore for her 1959 debut.

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“Barbie is a legend in her own right, with more than 150 careers and a brand valued at $3 billion,” Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni said on the New York Post. “She is in great company with the other legends, such as (actress-models) Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few.”

But there are plenty of questions, namely: what statement is Sports Illustrated trying to make?

Equating a doll to real supermodels, or even placing them in the same category seems somewhat demeaning. Mattel may have come under some unfair level of scrutiny, but Barbie is a doll that little girls like because she is pretty (and almost inhumanly so) and is divided into parts that they dress.

Are we essentially saying then, that models are nothing but human Barbies that are dressed up for our pleasure? It does nothing, in fact, to change the assumption that fashion is all about commodity and superficiality.

The magazine doesn't quite view it that way. "From its earliest days, Swimsuit has delivered a message of empowerment, strength and beauty and we are delighted that Barbie is celebrating those core values in such a unique manner," Swimsuit issue editor MJ Day said in the release.