There's going to be a new, more plasticky model posing alongside the flesh-and-blood ones in the Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue next week.
For a new campaign, Mattel is putting Barbie back in a version of the black-and-white striped swimsuit the doll wore when it was introduced in 1959 and promoting it partly with ads in Sports Illustrated's biggest issue of the year.
Both the doll and the Swimsuit Issue have sometimes been criticized for fueling unrealistic expectations about women's bodies. But the new Barbie effort, which puts the doll in close company with Swimsuit "legends" being brought back for the issue's 50th installment, is trying to stick it to critics with the tagline "Unapologetic."
"Barbie is a legend in her own right, with more than 150 careers and a brand valued at $3 billion," a Mattel spokeswoman said. "She is in great company with the other legends such as Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few."
"As a legend herself, and under criticism about her body and how she looks, posing in 'Sports Illustrated Swimsuit' gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done, and be unapologetic," the spokeswoman added.
Sports Illustrated also argues that the Swimsuit Issue celebrates women in a positive way. "From its earliest days, Swimsuit has delivered a message of empowerment, strength and beauty," Swimsuit Editor M. J. Day said in a statement, "and we are delighted that Barbie is celebrating those core values in such a unique manner."
The campaign, with photos by well-known sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr., begins with billboards in Times Square, and will also tease a new SI Swimsuit Barbie arriving later this month. Sports Illustrated's Swim Daily site and sibling sites at Time Inc. will post behind-the-scenes videos about Barbie and what it takes to be a Sports Illustrated "legend."
The swimsuit issue reaches newsstands on Feb. 18.