barbie doll facts
VCG / Contributor via Getty Images

29+ Odd Facts About Barbie That May Have Parents Questioning the Doll

Lifestyle

| LAST UPDATE 04/04/2022

By Lia Thomson

For nearly 60 years, she's been the world's favorite doll, but that doesn't mean we really know everything about Barbie. Here are some unexpected facts about the iconic toy that may leave parents thinking twice.

Barbie's Real Name

While probably the whole world easily recognizes the name "barbie," that wasn't the original name that the doll was given. Originally she was named after the girl who inspired the children's toy, Barbra Millicent Roberts. Ruth was trying to honor her daughter, but apparently, she wasn't too happy about it.

barbie doll real namebarbie doll real name
Jeff Christensen/RETIRED / Contributor via Getty Images

Although arguably hundreds of young girls and boys would love to be the name of any well-known toy, Barbra wasn't so happy about her mother's decision. "I did not like it. It is very strange to have a doll named after you," Barbra later confessed. Well, now we know why the name Barbra never stuck.

The Inspiration

Barbie Doll was first manufactured by Mattel, Inc., in 1959. But many wonder where exactly the idea for the now-infamous doll came from. Well, as it turns out, it was inspired by a little girl named Barbra Handler.

barbie doll paper toybarbie doll paper toy
Ken Florey Suffrage Collection/Gado / Contributor via Getty Images

When Handler was a young girl, she spent quite some time using her imagination to create her very own world. She often used paper dolls to act out the scenarios she had invented. This inspired her parents, Elliot and Ruth, to start their company, Mattel, and eventually create the real 3D doll.

Advertisement

The Man Behind Barbie

Even though all Barbie is technically just a few pieces of plastic placed together, the first person who ever brought her to life was an aerospace engineer. It's safe to say that Jack Ryan might have been overly qualified for the task of creating a doll.

barbie doll fun factsbarbie doll fun facts
Express / Stringer via Getty Images

The man who originally brought Barbie to life was a recent graduate from the Ivy League college, Yale. Ryan knew how to make the toy because he had been in the field of engineering for a few years at the time. He even went on to be a part of designing two government missile systems, Sparrow III and Hawk!

Advertisement

The Designer's Scandalous Life

After a few years, in 1975, Jack Ryan ended up marrying Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor. But by the time he was tying the knot, Barbie's first designer was, unfortunately, no longer working with Mattel, Inc. Apparently they didn't see eye to eye with one another.

barbie doll zsa zsabarbie doll zsa zsa
PA Images / Contributor via Getty Images

Their indifferences were so severe that Ryan actually ended up taking things to court. The engineer sued the Barbie doll company for royalties after he saw his checks decrease in number. Eventually, they somehow managed to settle their problems outside of the law and in private.

Advertisement

Help From Disney

While Barbie would have probably made it big without any help, the doll did get a major push from Disney. The toy company, Mattel, Inc., became a sponsor in 1955 for one of the entertainment giant's TV series. This made them one of the first year-long sponsors in the toy industry.

barbie doll disney princessesbarbie doll disney princesses
@magicaldisneyblog via Instagram

The show was The Mickey Mouse Club, which ultimately became a huge success and, in turn, helped push Barbie sales. The doll got to be featured in the commercials that happened between the shows airing. And ever since, the two brands have collaborated many times - including their infamous Disney princesses Barbie dolls.

Advertisement

Big Breaks by Barbie

The commercials for Barbie weren't just helping out the sales for the child's toy soar, they were also helping many youngsters get their rise to fame! The faces that appeared in the ads with the doll, later on, became some of the world's biggest A-list stars.

barbie doll mila kunisbarbie doll mila kunis
J. Vespa / Contributor via Getty Images

From Mila Kunis (above) to Maureen McCormick, many stars can thank Mattel for helping their careers get started on the big screen. Another famous face who started with Barbie was Fergie, who in the future became a beloved singer for The Black Eyed Peas.

Advertisement

She Was Originally Brunette

Today, the image that arguably pops up in many people's heads when they think of Barbie is a blonde plastic doll. But what many may not know is that the original design for the iconic toy was actually a brunette doll! It seems hard to imagine a world where she wasn't a blonde beauty.

barbie doll brunette toybarbie doll brunette toy
JOHN D MCHUGH / Staff via Getty Images

But, it's true, thousands of people first bought Barbie with a head full of dark locks. That was until consumer power showed that kids were probably more likely to purchase a blonde toy. And the rest was history… It looks like blondes might just have more fun, after all.

Advertisement

Barbie's Smile Took 12 Years

Today, her smile is arguably recognized worldwide, but back in 1959, the figurine, unfortunately, was lacking the facial expressions to show she was in a good mood. Her closed mouth caused Barbie to look like she was unhappy for the first 12 years of her life!

barbie doll smilebarbie doll smile
VCG / Contributor via Getty Images

Finally, after more than a decade, in 1971, the new model, named Malibu Barbie, hit stores. And with it came a totally new upgrade to the face and lips of the doll. Mattel had given the blonde a toy a set of pearly whites - and the ability to show them off with her smile!

Advertisement

Barbie and Ken's Relationship

It seems like Barbie and her boyfriend Ken go hand in hand. But sadly, fans were heartbroken to learn that the iconic couple split up back in 2004 - after 43 years together! But in true Barbie style, she didn't just sit at home and mope about the split.

barbie ken real storybarbie ken real story
Miguel Villagran / Staff via Getty Images

Instead, the doll started dating a new man, the Californian Blaine Gordo. Yet despite having a new plastic and fantastic partner, she couldn't resist her first love. Ken fought to win her back, and by 2011, their relationship was rekindled and better than ever.

Advertisement

She Has British Family

An interesting fact about Barbie is that although she is an American, the doll does have a British family member. A few years after the OG toy was released, a similar doll was created in the U.K. in 1966. But unfortunately, she wasn't as popular as her American cousin.

barbie doll francie fairchildbarbie doll francie fairchild
@kevinjacobmckibbenhill via Instagram

Her relative's name was Francie Fairchild, and she lasted roughly 10 years in stores before being discounted. But luckily, she returned to shelves in the U.K. for children to play with in 2011 - the same year the infamous royal wedding between William and Kate took place.

Advertisement

The First Celebrity Barbie

Throughout the years, many celebrities have been fortunate enough to get their very own Barbie doll creation that is a near replica of their face. Stars like Gigi Hadid, Hiedi Klum, Ashley Graham, and more have a Mattel one-of-a-kind doll. But the first star to ever get their own doll was Twiggy.

barbie doll twiggy modelbarbie doll twiggy model
Peter Bischoff / Stringer via Getty Images

The 60's iconic international supermodel was the first person to get the honor of being made into a playtoy. From her notorious black eyeliner to her short blonde hairdo, the company got nearly every detail of Twiggy right. The doll was released in 1967 and sported a yellow, blue, and green minidress.

Advertisement

Legal Troubles

The first place the original Barbie doll was ever seen was at the 1959 New York Toy Fair. The event was where Mattel decided to showcase its newest invention. But as they would later find out, they got into a sticky situation at the fair that eventually caused legal problems for the brand.

barbie doll lawsuit copying barbie doll lawsuit copying
@romitagirl67 via Instagram

The toy company's competitor, Greiner & Hausser, saw the doll and filed a lawsuit against Mattel for allegedly stealing their idea. The infringement case was filed because the latter company had a doll named Lilli who eerily resembled Barbie. After four long years of dealing with the case, it was finally settled in court.

Advertisement

She Went To The Moon

Before Neil Armstrong ever made history with his moon landing, Barbie was one step ahead of him - because, before the real-life astronaut's departure, the doll was shot up to space! Okay, so maybe she wasn't literally on the moon, but an astronaut version of the toy was.

barbie doll space careerbarbie doll space career
Marcin Wichary via Flickr

So it wasn't just a giant leap for mankind, but the moon landing was also a giant leap for all the dolls. In fact, maybe even more so, because it was four years before the actual Apollo 11 mission took place. Who knows what historical event Barbie will be a part of next...

Advertisement

The Best-Seller

Since the first doll was manufactured, Mattel has released a slew of different versions. There was Malibu Barbie, Superstar Barbie, Princess Barbies, and so many more. But out of all the different options, which one was most sought after by young girls?

barbie doll malibu toybarbie doll malibu toy
@another.doll.lover via Instagram

Well, as it turns out, according to the Guinness World Record organization, the best-selling Barbie doll was the Totally Hair Barbie. She reached the top of the charts based on the book of records. Since its release in 1992, the popular doll was bought nearly 10 million times!

Advertisement

Malibu Dream House

Barbie can be bought alone, but for parents who really want to wow their kid, the option for her Malibu House is available for sale. But for those who wanna buy it in the Barbie world, they may need to shell out a lot of dough: Her mansion is worth at least $25 million dollars!

barbie doll malibu housebarbie doll malibu house
@deepakstoretoyshop via Instagram

The house was put on the market in 2013 and quickly made headlines for its large asking price. But why exactly would it be worth so much? Well, apparently, it is because of the great scenery the 8,500 sq ft. home offers. "It's the only property in Malibu with truly unobstructed views of the ocean," Mattel advertised.

Advertisement

Barbie's 3 Second Sales

Fans may already know just how popular the doll is, but what they may not know is just how popular. The toy has had a huge impact on children, with many kids always asking to get Barbie as a gift. The demand is so high that nearly every 3 seconds, the doll is sold, according to Fortune magazine.

barbie doll best collectionbarbie doll best collection
Ian Waldie / Staff via Getty Images

But that's not all. Based on calculations conducted by The Daily Telegraph, they predicted that with the amount of Barbie dolls that have been bought, the toys could probably wrap around the entire world roughly 6 times! That's quite a lot of blonde dolls.

Advertisement

Biggest Barbie Collection

Thousands of people worldwide probably own more than just 1 doll - after all, there are so many versions to pick from. But there is one lady who has the biggest collection of them all. In 1966 Bettina Dorfmann received her very first Barbie, and since that day, she's continued to build up her collection.

barbie doll collector barbie doll collector
Bettina Dorfmann via Facebook

Although she was just 5 when she was given the gift, the toy left an impression on her. Her love for the doll led her to become the owner of 15,000 different dolls! Yes, that's right, the German native is probably the most dedicated fan that Mattel's ever had.

Advertisement

She's Had 200+ Careers

To educate young boys and girls on what the world has to differ, the Barbie doll has welcomed many different jobs. From a doctor to a lawyer, karate teacher, zoologist, and flight attendant, this toy is multitalented! The variety makes sure that every child feels seen.

barbie doll jobs careersbarbie doll jobs careers
Chuck Orbitz via Flickr

Let's just say Barbie has one impressive resume. How does she do it all?! Altogether she has had nearly 200 jobs since she first entered the market in 1959. But she's also showed off her skills in many other ways by winning an Olympic gold medalist and even being named Miss America. What cant she do?

Advertisement

Most Expensive Doll

While most Barbie dolls typically don't go over the $100 dollar mark, there was one extravagant creation that led to one of the toys being sold for thousands of dollars. In 2010, to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a fundraiser was held where many expensive items were sold.

barbie doll expensive toybarbie doll expensive toy
Robert Gray / Stringer via Getty Images

One of these items was a blonde bombshell doll that was sporting a  Stefano Canturi-designed diamond necklace. Thanks to the real jewels, she was worth $302,500 dollars! A very loyal fan ended up taking the Barbie home with him, along with the sparkly diamonds.

Advertisement

Andy Warhol x Barbie

Barbie was a huge hit for toy stores in the 20th century, but that wasn't the only industry that was booming. Andy Warhol, a famous artist, was selling his work left and right. So it was a huge deal when the two were combined into one medium in 1986. The artist painted a portrait of Barbie - but that wasn't his plan at first...

barbie doll andy warholbarbie doll andy warhol
The B Collector via Youtube

Originally Warhol wanted to paint a friend from his associates named "Billyboy." The muse, later on, admitted that he told the painter, "For some reason, I didn't appreciate that idea. Out of annoyance, I said to him, 'Well, if you really want to do my portrait, do a portrait of Barbie — because Barbie, c'est moi.'"

Advertisement

Barbie's High-Fashion Debut

Barbie is obviously one fashionable doll. Since she was debuted to the world, many high-end fashion designers have provided her with luxury outfits. Some of the most sought-after designers in the industry have helped keep her in style - including Vera Wang, Givenchy, and Christian Louboutin.

barbie doll fashion designerbarbie doll fashion designer
Chesnot / Contributor via Getty Images

But who was the first one to ever have the honor of dressing the blonde icon? None other than Oscar de la Renta. In 1984, the Dominican designer dressed the toy doll from head to toe in “glamorous jewel tone and metallic outfits.” She is one lucky gal!

Advertisement

Her First Job

She may be a plastic toy, but this starlet has been working since day one. In fact, Barbie's very first career was as a teen model, which some might argue was the most fitting for the lean, tall bombshell out of all the other careers she went to pursue.

barbie doll teen modelbarbie doll teen model
Lawrence Lucier / Stringer via Getty Images

Her time as a model may explain why she was first showcased wearing a monochromatic swimsuit. But her time in this profession was cut short because, after all, she needed more time to spend being a scuba diver, a karate instructor, a squadron leader, and so much more. But we can't forget where it all started...

Advertisement

Was She a Spy?

With so many different types of Barbies ever released by Mattel, it comes as no surprise that a few here and there have come under fire. In 2015, the debut of Hello Barbie was met with criticism and concern from the toy's fans. The new doll could actually speak to her owner and answer questions they may have.

barbie doll voice recordingbarbie doll voice recording
Alli Harvey / Contributor via Getty Images

Many parents started to worry that it might have been a ploy to collect voice recordings from young kids. Many different conspiracy theories began flying around. But others were simply arguing that the fact that Barbie could hear the kids might be an invasion of privacy for hundreds of families.

Advertisement

Barbie's Pet Animals

We already know how busy of a gal Barbie is, from her 200 professions to her time spent rocking designer pieces. Yet still, the toy doll somehow manages to own many different types of pets. At this point, her Malibu Dream House can be considered a zoo!

barbie doll animals petbarbie doll animals pet
@cantinhodobrinquedocvel via Instagram

According to reports by The Things website, Barbie has had a total of 40 animals over the years. These included 21 dogs, six cats, and 14 horses. And while that may sound like a handful already, she has also owned a panda, a zebra, and her very own chimpanzee.

Advertisement

Barbie's Run for President

It comes as no surprise that the doll with many talents has run for one of the greatest seats in government office. For 30 years now, Barbie has been in the running and campaigning to be voted in as President of the United States in the world of plastic.

barbie doll president officebarbie doll president office
MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE / Stringer via Getty Images

She even made history in 2016 when she was running against an all-female ticket. And although in real life, we still haven't seen a female president in the oval office, maybe the women of Barbie land will get the ball rolling. We'll just have to wait and see what the toy doll has in store for us.

Advertisement

The Truth About Her Belly Button

Barbie has been referenced as having a seemingly "perfect" body thanks to her proportions. But her height and small waist haven't always been exactly accurate anatomically. In fact, during her first 41 years on shelves, she was missing a crucial part of any human body.

barbie doll belly buttonbarbie doll belly button
Getty Images / Handout via Getty Images

The blonde doll wasn't given a belly button when she was first manufactured in the 50s. We can't be sure why the engineer never put one, but finally, in 2000, the toy company gave Barbie her very first navel. This made her look even more similar to a real human being.

Advertisement

Barbie's Weight-Loss Book

Barbie has been around for many decades, meaning that she has witnessed society change a few times. So while today, this would probably never happen, in 1965, no one questioned the fact that the Slumber Party Barbie included a special cookbook titled: How to Lose Weight.

barbie doll cookbookbarbie doll cookbook
FunFun Toy Doll TV via Youtube

If the book had been released in the 21st Century, Barbie and Mattel would have probably been canceled for giving young advice such as "don't eat." And to make matters even worse, the toy came with a small plastic bathroom scale that stated Barbie was 110 pounds.

Advertisement

Runway Show Star

She's already had loads of experience modeling and also wearing high- end clothing pieces. So we're sure she had no problem strutting down the runway for her very own show in 2009. The whole event was extra special because it was her 50th anniversary.

barbie doll fashion showbarbie doll fashion show
VCG / Contributor via Getty Images

But it wasn't a regular old show, it was a New York Fashion Week show. Barbie was given many helping hands by several luxurious fashion designers. Just to name a few of the brands that provided the doll with expensive pieces: Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and Juicy Couture.

Advertisement

Her Many Siblings

Fans may be surprised to learn this next unknown fact about the iconic blonde doll toy. While she may be the most popular one in her family tree, Barbie actually has many siblings! They all come from the same mom and dad, who are named Margeret and George.

barbie doll seven siblingsbarbie doll seven siblings
@mieko_goto0818 via Instagram

The seven brothers and sisters she has been named Skipper, Stacie, Todd, Chelsea, Kelly, Krissy, and Tutti. But unfortunately, a few of them haven't been seen on shelves in many years - especially Tutti and her twin brother Todd, who were last sold in 1971.

Advertisement

Barbie's Wheelchair

Barbie may have become known for unachievable body measurements, but she has represented various types of people over the years. In fact, she was the first toy to ever own a wheelchair! The debut of this world record was in 1997. It seems like Mattel tries to ensure their dolls show a lot of diversity.

barbie doll wheelchair recordbarbie doll wheelchair record
@doll.guy via Instagram

But a wheelchair-bound Barbie wasn't the only thing the toy company released. Mattel went on to create a disability-themed range. One of the Barbies also included a prosthetic leg to make sure every young child around the world had a Barbie that looked just like them. And we love to see it...

Advertisement