Recently, Barbie has done much to break out of her Paris Hilton-esque, skinny, white woman mould and diversify. Last week, toymaker Mattel unveiled a new range of dolls – dubbed ‘Fashionistas’ – which come in a variety of body types and seven different skin tones. This new, body-positive Barbie even landed the cover of this month’s TIME magazine (unveiled last week).
Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old blogger and medical scientist from Nigeria, has taken the doll’s new look one step further by making a hijab-wearing Barbie – or as she’s calling her, ‘Hijarbie’. Adam explains that the idea came from coming across a Barbie style page and wanting to see the doll dressed in clothes like hers. “It got me thinking about how I’d like to see a doll dressed up like me – covered up,” she says. “I went to the mall, purchased a doll, dressed it up, documented it and here we are.”
Hijarbie is the first of its kind – something Adam is aware of, as well as the message of inclusivity it comes with. “I'm filling a gap and hoping to create a positive awareness for the Muslim girl,” she says. “I want her to be inspired. This is about creating an alternative and having toys that look like you, which, at the end of the day, leads to better self-esteem.”
Adam also stresses how life in the 21st century can be psychologically challenging at times, which makes it more important to identify with your cultural heritage. Speaking on the subject of the representation of Muslim women in mainstream Western culture, Adam says that “fashion-conscious Muslim women in the form of bloggers have been taking centre stage for a good few years, showing the world that style can coincide with faith.” There’s more to be done, though.
Apparently the response to Hijarbie has been overwhelmingly positive. “It's been a hit with the parents,” says Adam, “and older girls say they wished they had the dolls when they were little.” Then there’s the social media success – since joining Instagram seven weeks ago, Hijarbie has gained nearly 5,000 followers. As for the future, Adam says she’s hoping that creating hijabs and abayas for dolls could one day turn into a profitable business.