Barbie at 60, and how she made her mark on the Arab world

Barbie at 60, and how she made her mark on the Arab world
US Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad with her Barbie model and, the Moroccan Saghira. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019

Barbie at 60, and how she made her mark on the Arab world

Barbie at 60, and how she made her mark on the Arab world
  • After entering the Saudi market in the 1990s, the doll gained fans while causing controversy for ‘encouraging un-Islamic dress codes’
  • Temporary bans failed to dim her appeal in the Kingdom, and Middle East companies came up with more modest alternatives like Fulla

JEDDAH: Barbara Millicent Roberts, also known as “Barbie,” one of the world’s most famous dolls, is celebrating her 60th birthday. With a brand name that has become synonymous with glamor, style and female empowerment, Barbie has captured hearts and minds all over the world, including Saudi Arabia.

More than 1 billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. She was invented by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, who was inspired by her own children in her creation. 

Barbie officially entered the Saudi market in the mid 1990s, but many people recall having played with Barbies as children in the 1980s and early 1990s. Even temporary bans — in 1995 and 2003 — have failed to dim her appeal in the Kingdom.

“I received my first Barbie when I was about 8 or 9, ” said Hatoon Al-Toukhi, a corporate communications manager in Jeddah. “By the time I was in my teens, I had about 15. This was in the late 1980s and we used to get them from abroad. Back then, they weren’t allowed to sell the doll, but they did sell the clothes, shoes and accessories. There weren’t many varieties back then, but my favorite Barbie was blonde with blue eyes. I remember that she had light pink heels, too. Playing with Barbies was like living in a dream world. You shift into that make-believe land and I had my cousin who shared my love for Barbies. We’d have them play the roles of doctors and teachers, even cousins since we were cousins. The epitome of Barbie excitement came when we’d receive our Eid money and go to buy more clothes for our Barbie dolls.”

Hatoon has passed on her love for Barbie to her 6-year-old daughter, Dana. “I’ve always dreamt of having a Barbie Dream House, but it was too expensive back then. My daughter now has over 50 Barbies and I can see the same excitement in her eyes as I once had, I also got her the Barbie Dream House, but I don’t know who’s more excited about it, me or her.”

Barbie, with her long blonde locks of hair with big bright blue eyes, has been a beloved doll for many generations across the globe. Despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbies are sold each year in more than 150 countries, Mattel calculates that a Barbie is sold every 2 seconds somewhere in the world. 

Pink is the word — Barbie even has her own Pantone: 216 C. Her products don’t stop at the dolls themselves; Barbie’s name and face have probably been plastered on almost anything you can imagine. Clothes, makeup, kitchenware, and school supplies are just a few of the massively popular Barbie-branded products that have graced high-street and online stores. She has even starred in 34 movies, and counting.

Barbie has also been recognized globally as a major brand over the decades of her career, with international editions of the doll being released every year in traditional costumes for different countries. Among the most notable in the Muslim world are two from Morocco, one from Ghana, one from Malaysia and one from Egypt.

Many of these limited edition Barbie dolls are considered more pieces of art than toys. Barbies that are no longer sold in stores can be found for exorbitant prices on online auction sites. The original 1959 Barbie doll is estimated to be worth about $24,000. In 2017 Australian jewelry designer Stefano Canturi — asked to design a one-of-a-kind Barbie to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research foundation — sold his creation at auction at Christie’s, New York, for a huge $302,000.

However, a career as long as Barbie’s doesn’t come without its share of controversy. The doll has been banned multiple times in multiple countries, both temporarily (in places such as Saudi Arabia and Russia) and permanently (in Iran). In the Middle East, Barbies were commonly banned for being “promiscuous” or “encouraging un-Islamic dress codes.” In Russia, they were banned for “encouraging consumerism among Russian infants.”

After the Barbie ban swept the Middle East around 2003, many local companies were keen to step in, with local and regional alternatives coming on sale. Notable alternatives to Barbie are Fulla, from Middle Eastern manufacturer NewBoy; Razanne, from US-based Palestinian expat Ammar Saadeh; Morocco’s Saghira; and Iran’s Sara and Dara. 

Fulla was launched in the Middle East in 2003 and soon became available in stores across the globe. She is now sold in China, Brazil, North Africa, Egypt, and Indonesia, and even in a few locations in the US. Within two years of her arrival, Fulla had sold more than 1.5 million units, quickly becoming a fierce competitor for parents who didn’t wish to buy Barbies for their daughters. 

In Iran, Sara and Dara were presented as more child-friendly than the more provocatively dressed Barbie; they were created by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in an effort to promote traditional Muslim values in the country, and dressed in traditional Irani clothes. The brother-and-sister duo are supposed to be eight years old, young enough under Islamic law for Sara to appear in public without a headscarf. However, the creators included headscarves with the toy.

Barbie’s range of “Sheroes,” launched last March, were modelled on internationally familiar role models such as NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, US fencing champion and first official Hijabi Barbie, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Polish journalist Martyna Wojciechowska. 

In an effort to make the dolls more inclusive, one of the biggest changes in the next generation of Barbie and friends, 40 new dolls, seven new body types, 11 skin tones and 28 different hairstyles were introduced into the market. 

In the era of digital toys, Barbie has struggled. In 2012, Barbie’s global sales dropped 3 percent, falling. a further 6 percent in 2013 and 16 percent in 2014. However in 2017, sales rose by 9 percent, and commentators believe that Barbie might be making a comeback.

Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel, said: “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them. Her ability to evolve and grow with the times, while staying true to her spirit, is central to why Barbie is the number one fashion doll in the world.”


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images
Updated 18 April 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan donates one million meals to new UAE campaign

The beauty mogul urged her followers on social media to donate to the campaign. File/Getty Images

DUBAI: Dubai-based beauty mogul Huda Kattan took to Instagram on Saturday to reveal she has taken part in a food drive campaign launched by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The 100 Million Meals mission was launched to provide food parcels to disadvantaged communities across 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa in an effort to combat hunger and malnutrition, exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Kattan announced that she has donated one million meals to those less fortunate via her cosmetics company Huda Beauty.

“It’s hard to believe that in today’s world, in 2021, we’re still dealing with issues of malnutrition and that every ten seconds a child dies because of hunger. This initiative is so incredible and it’s just a reminder of how each and every single one of us has the power to make a change,” said Kattan in a video posted to her Instagram account.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Huda Kattan (@huda)

“I’m so proud to live in a country that prioritizes world hunger,” she said, urging her 2.2 million followers to donate to the charitable initiative.

The 100 Million Meals campaign is an expansion of the 10 Million Meals campaign, which was launched in 2020 to help those worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within a week of its launch, the initiative has raised over $21,200, equivalent to providing more than 78 million meals, as massive donations continue to pour in from individuals and companies inside and outside the UAE.

Kattan is an avid humanitarian and often steps up to help those who need it most.

In June, her cosmetics brand, Huda Beauty, donated $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a civil and human rights organization that provides legal assistance to low-income African Americans, during the height of the Black Lives Matters protests that swept through the US last year. 

Before that, the US-Iraqi beauty mogul pledged to donate $100,000 — to be split between 100 different freelance makeup artists providing them with $1000 each — in a bid to help people in the industry stay afloat financially during the pandemic.


Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek
Updated 18 April 2021

Middle East Fashion Week announces dates for inaugural edition

The event is set to take place at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. Instagram/@middleeast.fashionweek

DUBAI: There’s a new fashion week in the region to look forward to. Middle East Fashion Week has announced its inaugural edition in a statement today. The six-day event is scheduled to take place at Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm from May 14-19. 

Unlike the traditional fashion week format we’ve all become accustomed to, Middle East Fashion Week is adopting a unique schedule, with a three-day sustainable fashion forum featuring high-profile international speakers, followed by three days of in-person fashion shows from international and regional designers, a gala dinner and a slew of other VIP events.

CEO of Middle East Fashion Council Simon J Lo Gatto, said in a statement: “Middle Eastern Fashion Week has been created as a platform to allow designers to come together with a unique opportunity to showcase in Dubai and to reach audiences not only across the GCC, but also the larger Indian subcontinent and Europe.”

He added: “Our goal is for the Middle East Fashion Week to become a biannual Fashion Week that acts as a reference point for designers from all corners of the world. Since inception in 2020, MEFC has positioned itself as the world’s first fashion council with sustainability as its core value and long-term objective. The platform was born from an inspiration to tackle climate change and pollution brought on as a direct result of the industry we love.”

The participating designers have yet to be revealed.


Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.
Baked feta pasta.
Updated 18 April 2021

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.

DUBAI: If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve drooled over one of countless images of baked feta pasta — a dish that went viral this year for that holy grail combination of anyone-can-do-it easiness and blissful deliciousness.

The dish, which consists of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and pasta, has been blasted all over the For You pages of millennials and Gen Z’ers on TikTok, and as of April 18,  #bakedfetapasta has more than 111.4 million views on the social media platform.

For those looking to whip up the dish for iftar, we asked Iraqi-Canadian chef Faisal Hasoon to share a simple baked feta pasta recipe with an Arab twist. 

The chef incorporates a fresh Middle Eastern flavor by way of roasted red peppers, sliced kalamata olives, a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of zest.  

Baked Feta Pasta

(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 3tbsp

6 cloves garlic (minced)

60g kalamata olives (sliced thin)

250g roasted red peppers (diced)

6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

350g pasta (rigatoni) 

200g feta cheese (Greek, sheep or goat)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

Chilli pepper oil 1tbsp

Dried chilli flakes 1tsp

Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions: 

Step 1: In a medium sized pot bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as per the instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the remainder and set aside.

Step 2: Starting with a cold pan, cook garlic on low heat in olive oil. Allow it to simmer just before turning golden brown. Be sure not to overcook it as it will become bitter.  Add red chilli flakes and roasted red peppers, let it simmer for a few minutes then add sliced olives. Maintaining low heat and turning with a spatula frequently.

Step 3: Place the whole block of feta into the center of the pan and into the oven at 375 Celsius for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

Step 4: Place the pasta into the pan and mix well until all ingredients are well incorporated, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

Step 5: Finish with the zest and juice of one lemon, fresh cracked black pepper and thinly sliced basil. For an extra kick, drizzle over chilli oil and enjoy!

 

 


Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied
Updated 17 April 2021

Lebanese author Hoda Barakat’s ‘Voices of the Lost’ is a dark, profound novel

The book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Supplied

CHICAGO: Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, “Voices of the Lost,” written by acclaimed Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and newly translated into English by Marilyn Booth, is a dark, profound novel that follows the lives of six men and women who confess their untold truths to their loved ones through letters. None of the letters reaches their intended recipients, however, and their devastating admissions are left to strangers who are then inspired to disclose their own secrets. And through their confessions, a series of letters emerges on life, love and devastating loss.

In an unknown part of the world, where war, poverty and destruction have caused life to veer in unpredictable directions, strangers struggle with the events of the past, both those they were responsible for and those they were victims of, which forced them into lives they neither wanted nor could have ever dreamed of. Split into three parts — for the lost, for the searching, and those left behind — the novel begins with an undocumented immigrant who is writing to an ex-girlfriend. He writes to her of the most profound and disturbing moment in his childhood, one that changed the trajectory of his life forever. From that moment on, life has never quite been the same, and it has led him to a dark place where he cannot mentally, spiritually or physically settle.

Barakat’s novel is a delicate experiment in confession and a testament to the catalyzing power of writing to reveal the truth. Her characters commit their lives to paper without the fear of retribution, confessing their crimes of infidelity, torture and more. None of the writers can return to his or home, to a state of comfort or to the past. Some have lost their countries, while others have simply run out of time.

Barakat’s characters must force themselves to move forward from their past sufferings. Where loved ones and society may not accept their revelations of shortcomings or shame, their confessions are a reconciliation with themselves. And in writing of their pain, they connect with one another. They are not alone, no matter how lonely the act of writing a letter can be. And in a moment of consciousness, awake in their confessions, Barakat’s characters reach a spiritual peak within themselves, one that pushes them to continue surviving.

 


US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images
Updated 17 April 2021

US actress Yara Shahidi to produce new TV series

Yara Shahidi shot to fame for her role on TV’s ‘Black-ish.’ File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: US actress Yara Shahidi is developing a new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions. The part-Middle Eastern star is set to executive produce and develop an on-screen adaptation of Cole Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World,” alongside her mother and business partner Keri Shahidi and Brown for ABC Signature.

“Honored to bring @coletdbrown’s incredible & nuanced telling of our stories as brown folx onto screens w/ my PARTNER IN CRIME @chocolatemommyluv! (sic)” wrote the 21-year-old on Instagram, alongside a screenshot of a Deadline article announcing the news of the series.

“The work of displaying and celebrating the ENTIRE spectrum of our humanity continues to feel more prescient (sic),” she added.

Published in 2020, “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” is a first-hand account of what it’s like to navigate life in America as a mixed-race adolescent. The book was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author.

According to the author, the book is heavily inspired by an essay he wrote in college.

“What a dream come true this is!” exclaimed Cole on Instagram. “It still astounds me to think that what began as a college essay a few years ago has made it all the way to ABC. No duo I’d rather work with to bring Greyboy to life than @yarashahidi & @chocolatemommyluv. Let’s get to work! (sic),” the author posted on social media.

Back in September, Shahidi took to social media to praise Cole’s debut book, writing that “his honest reflections on the way in which racial identity takes shape and shape-shifts through his own experiences feels intimate, and yet taps in to the common experience of moving through space as a black and brown person.” She added that “It’s been a must-read in our household!”

“Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World” isn’t the only project that the “Grown-ish” star is currently working on. 

The US-Iranian actress and activist is also producing a new single-camera comedy series, titled “Smoakland,” for Freeform via her production company 7th Sun.

The rising star and her mother announced the launch of their new production company in July and signed an exclusive overall deal with ABC Studios which will see them develop television projects for streaming, cable and broadcast platforms.