A simple YouTube search using the terms “Barbie” and “Barbie wannabe” will yield thousands of results. Today, loads of young African American women are embracing Barbie. It goes beyond pre-adolescent girls dreaming up Kens and pink Barbie dream cars, these are young women who have completely adopted Barbie’s features and personality. But why is a 51-year-old white female icon still a sustaining ideal of beauty for young black girls?
Take this video below posted earlier this year of a seemingly aspiring artist named Sammygurl who runs down a series of requirements to become a fly girl. The first two rules offered are the more obvious materials any fashionable girl would have, lip-gloss and ‘bad shoes’. The young woman’s third rule however, presents an alarming and pathological qualification, “be a bourgeois white girl.” Throughout much of the video, Sammygurl projects a stereotypical ‘white girl’ by flipping her hair and borrowing formulaic ‘white girl’ vocalization. The young woman continues her explanation of rules and then proceeds into a rap.
The retro hip hop colloquialism, “fly girl” has been flipped on its head. Young girls today are using “fly girl” and ‘white girl’ synonymously. There is no doubt a source of Sammygurl’s influence is rapper, Nicki Minaj. Minaj however, has been on record stating that her “Barbie” image is a cartoon-like character she created. The Young Money rapper explicitly stated that her creation is not the person she truly is. The study of this video gives the impression that young girls are taking the caricature Minaj created quite literally. It’s one thing to become inspired by Minaj’s fashion and beauty trends, it’s an entirely different thing to ‘be on that white girl.’
It’s been over fifty years since the psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark used results from their “doll test” to support the landmark desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. Clark’s study revealed that an overwhelming majority of African American children preferred a white doll over a black doll. Sammygurl’s YouTube video is an unfortunate indication that things haven’t changed.