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International Women's Day

Barbie doll ‘honour’ for China’s top ballerina, Tan Yuanyuan

Nation’s greatest ever ballet dancer among 17 women role models chosen for new Barbie doll series

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:44am

China’s top ballerina, Tan Yuanyuan, can add another honour to her long list of achievements – a Barbie doll in her image. The doll features Tan wearing a white swan tutu from the ballet Swan Lake.

“It’s exciting to be recognised by Barbie along with other inspirational women from around the world who are breaking boundaries in different areas to make the world a better place for the next generation of girls,” Tan, prima ballerina of the San Francisco Ballet and a guest principal dancer with the Hong Kong Ballet for the past decade, said by email.

Tan, considered the greatest Chinese ballet dancer of all time, was among women honoured with dolls in their image last week to mark International Women’s Day. Toymaker Mattel last week issued 17 new Barbies representing female role models around the world.

Among the other women are Chinese volleyball champion Hui Ruoqi, a former national team captain (she led her team to gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics) and Chinese actress Guan Xiaotong, ambassador for World Life Day, a joint campaign by the United Nations Environment Programme, International Fund for Animal Welfare and The Nature Conservancy.

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Also given the Barbie treatment were women including US Olympic snowboarding champion Chloe Kim, British boxing champion Nicola Adams, Wonder Woman film director Patty Jenkins, French chef Hélène Darroze, Spanish fashion designer Vicky Martin Berrocal, Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, and Italian soccer player Sara Gama, as well as some figures from history.

They are the latest additions to Mattel’s “Shero” Barbie collection, launched in 2015.

Tan, who in 2004 appeared on the cover of Time magazine as a “Hero of Asia”, said: “I’m honoured to be a role model, to help younger girls believe in themselves and trust that they can be anything.”

The release of the new Barbies didn’t please everyone. Internet users in China said the dolls of Hui and Guan looked nothing like either woman.

“Only the ballerina looks Chinese. Weird,” wrote one Facebook user.

And actress Salma Hayek took to social media to criticise Mattel for its Barbie of Mexican artist and women’s rights icon Frida Kahlo (Hayek played Kahlo in the 2002 biopic Frida). Hayek shared an Instagram post blasting the doll for going against everything Kahlo stood for.

Mattel has come under fire in the past for promoting unrealistic body image.

Lisa McKnight, senior-vice president and general manager, Barbie, said of the new dolls: “Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything.”