The Barbie vlog empowers girls – with words

The iconic character shines a light on how we can encourage girls to reach their full potential

The currency of social influencers is an ability to effect change.

And Barbie is using her YouTube channel, which includes her vlog and its over 5 million subscribers, to speak directly to girls about believing in themselves.

In her most recent post – covered in a new behind-the-scenes Vice broadcast – she refers to research that shows that starting at the age of 6, girls become significantly less likely than boys to see themselves as smart. Barbie explains that this crisis of confidence, also known as the dream gap, starts with subtle conversations that can make girls doubt themselves and what they’re capable of. “Our words have power,” she says.

Leave it to Barbie to impart such wisdom. In her web series, she has been reimagined by a dedicated team of writers, animators and producers to bring to life these “teachable moments” in a way that only Barbie can. Brought to life via motion-capture animation, Barbie tackles subjects ranging from bullying to empathy. The Barbie vlog is quick, real and reactive ­– and that’s precisely why it receives millions of views and scores of passionate comments.

We spoke to executive producer and writer Julia Pistor about the impact of Barbie’s vlog and her latest contributions around solving for the dream gap.

Q: What led to the creation of the Barbie vlog?  

A: We’ve always felt that Barbie is a wonderful avatar for empowering girls and telling their stories. The brand was thinking about how to create more of an emotional connection, and girls said that they would really like to hear Barbie talk. Some very smart people in the emerging business thought of creating an influencer vlog, and I thought it was a brilliant idea.

Another key part of Barbie’s character is her natural intention to empower girls.  That has always been really important to her.

– Julia Pistor

At that time, the team was writing what we call the Barbie Character Bible because we wanted her to have a 360-degree, dimensional personality that would be the same whether she was acting as an influencer, talking in a TV show or being talked about by us in the documentary [“Tiny Shoulders”]. So we spent a long time writing that first script. As an influencer, Barbie needed to be somebody who could react to what was going on in the world. The women involved – including actress America Young and producer Rosanna Sun – deserve so much credit because they read the script and wanted to channel a strong and empowering girl. When we saw America’s performance, we were like, “Boom. That’s Barbie.” And the vlogger was born.

Q: What are some of Barbie the vlogger’s standout characteristics?

A: Barbie has had more than 200 careers. If you’ve had 200 careers, you’d be an inquisitive person. So, the No. 1 characteristic is that she’s curious. Barbie the vlogger feels real and relatable. We’ve made her grounded. Her character is not perfect. She’s not afraid to make mistakes; she’s not afraid to be herself even when that might be a little silly.

Barbie is conscious of language and words; she talks about intention and she’s self-reflective. When she speaks about her younger sisters, words are important. While we might use words that kids sometimes need to look up, we try to be true to Barbie being a 17-year-old influencer.

Another key part of Barbie’s character is her natural intention to empower girls.  That has always been really important to her.

Q: Who is the audience for the vlog and how does the Barbie brand use the vlog to connect?

A: First and foremost, it’s for girls. We don’t do anything that we don’t think would be aspirational or engaging for girls ages 6–11. But we’re able to have a broader audience because we practice the art of family entertainment, which means that you don’t talk down to kids. People love us for different reasons, just as people like Barbie for different reasons. Mothers love that Barbie can talk about bullying and other real, current issues that can be hard for their kids; young adults like the stories and the inspirational lessons.  We’ve always had a huge following of women and men who look to Barbie as the icon that she’s been since 1959.

Q: Why is the dream gap an important conversation for Mattel and Barbie?

A: Mattel, which is the steward of one of the most powerful girl brands in the world, cares a lot about the research coming out about the dream gap. Little girls get to a certain age when there’s nothing out there to encourage their dreams and aspirations. When Ruth Handler started the Barbie brand, it was about girls’ choices to aspire to be different things. It’s disheartening to hear the research that girls stop raising their hands, stop describing themselves as rocking amazing energy and start doubting themselves. People are drawn to work on the Barbie brand because they feel strongly about the dream gap.

 Q: How does the vlog help to build Barbie’s story and reputation as a cultural icon?

A: I think she’s learned not to be afraid to speak and that she doesn’t have to be perfect. Barbie once got a lot of flak for saying that math is hard. Today, she might say that math might be hard but that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable or fun; fun things can be hard too. Difficult things exist in the world, and we can power through them.

Barbie is not just a doll — she’s a brand. The vlog gives her emotional equity, and it makes our business better when people feel she’s someone they can root for.

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