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.

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  • This is an interesting article, but I don’t think one lonely video proves that scores of African-American girls/teenagers aspire to be white. I don’t even think this video can be held as a comparison to the Kenneth and Mamie Clark video that showed a succession of black girls who chose a white doll over a black doll. If, perhaps, there was a renewed Kenneth and Mamie Clark study with the same methodologies, then maybe you have a point. A shamefully dull Youtube video, does not do so…but I think it does underscore the influence of someone like Nicki Minaj on one person.

  • I agree with Claire. This video to me is pretty irrelevant. We have to remember that there are scores of dumbasses in the world and young women are clearly impressionable.

  • Kassie

    I grew up in an all white town, literally one other black kid at my school. I would die to have dolls anything but white and blonde, but the second my friends forced me to play the black one (I had to play Mel B. whenever we played Spice GIrls) I wanted to be the white one more.

    I don’t know if black girls and women want to be white more so as they don’t want to be defined by their blackness.