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Kitty Black Perkins, who designed the first Black Barbie, reflects on her legacy

Designer of first Black Barbie reflects on legacy
Designer of first Black Barbie reflects on legacy 01:53

"Barbie" was a box office smash, taking the world by storm as it celebrated women and showcased the diverse history of the popular doll. The history of that diversity can be traced back to trailblazer Kitty Black Perkins.

Perkins designed Mattel's first Black Barbie, which debuted in 1980 after demand from collectors.

"Everything Barbie was, I wanted Black Barbie to be the opposite," Perkins, now 76, told CBS News.

In the 1960s and '70s, the only diverse dolls in Barbie's world were sidekicks. But Perkins' doll, made more in the image of Black women, would bear the marquee Barbie name.

"I wanted her to be able to do the same things that the White doll did, but just add a little more spice," Perkins said.

Like Barbie, Perkins is also the first of her kind. The first Black designer at Mattel grew up in the Jim Crow South. The creator said she didn't have any Black dolls of her own to play with growing up.

"I would actually color the skin of the paper dolls," she said, adding, "I wanted them to look like me."

Perkins retired from Mattel in 2004 as Chief Barbie Designer, leaving her imprint on the iconic doll for nearly three decades.  

But for Perkins, Black Barbie was the mold to break the mold.

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