SHAFAQNA- It’s hard to imagine that with the lengths Mattel are going to, to give Barbie a makeover that is more relevant to the current culture of girls, women and female empowerment, they would miss an opportunity for diverse representation. Alas, that is the case, but one young woman has taken steps to identify the problem, and create a solution.
Haneefah Adam is a postgraduate medical student from Nigeria, who also runs a blog called Muslimahanie which is a lifestyle and fashion blog for millennial Muslim women. Despite seeing various incarnations of Barbie over the past few years, including more empowering career choices, Barbies modeled on real life female role models, and a wider range of body shapes to choose from, Haneefah was disappointed in the lack of Barbie’s representing the millions of Muslim girls around the world who are passionate about fashion and style.
After browsing through a Barbie style page and not seeing any doll dressed like her, she decided to buy a Barbie, dress it up like her, and take pictures of it. Toward the end of 2015 she created an Instagram account called @Hijarbie showing pictures of Barbies dressed in modest Muslim fashion, and it quickly became an internet sensation.
“I was a little bit surprised [by its success], but then, most people haven’t seen something like that before,” she told Al Jazeera in an interview in February. At the time of that article being published, she already had close to 35,000 followers, but today she has over 72,000!
“I set up the account initially to create an avenue to make modest outfits for dolls, because I haven’t really seen one before. Before I created the account, I hadn’t seen a doll in hijab that had her own account and personality. This account provided that hijabi style avenue,” she said.
In the Barbie’s World Collection, Al Jazeera reported it features a Venetian Muse, Tribal Beauty, Maiko and Inuit Legend, but no hijab-wearing doll.
Haneefah is not trying to make any sort of overtly political statement, she insists it is more about filling a gap in the Barbie world and presenting a positive and empowering view of Muslim girls to the world.
“I’m filling a gap and hoping to create a positive awareness for the Muslim girl. 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,” she told Dazed magazine.