Beautiful Farrah Fawcett was the #1 idol of my late-1970s high school years, and typical of many of my teenage peers I had her best-selling swimsuit poster hanging on my bedroom wall, wore her foxy face on the front of a t-shirt, and bought up the countless magazines featuring her angelic features (not to mention that most of my female peers were emulating her feathered hair). I was in heaven when Mattel produced her likeness as a Barbie, inspired by the iconic 1976 poster (with a portion of the proceeds going to the Farrah Fawcett Foundation to fight cancer). In all my years of collecting, the Farrah Barbie is the only one I bought two of: one to take out of the box, and one to keep mint-in-box forever.
"You look like a Ken Doll!"
I Dream of Summer Barbie
I can't help but feel the blond Fashionistas Ken dolls are remindful of the younger me - in looks, style and essence. I wish I had a dollar every time someone told me, "You look like a Ken Doll" ... I'd probably have enough money to afford the original 1959 Ponytail Barbie, mint-in-box too!
"My Two Kens"
1970 & 1971
Rose Mansour, my mother was open-minded about allowing her son to play with dolls. The Talking Ken and Malibu Ken pictured here were both gifts from mom during my childhood in the early-1970s (I’m sure mom's open-mind thought my playing with these Ken dolls was no different then playing with the era's popular male action figures, G.I. Joe and Big Jim – and in actuality I played with all of them together)."
I'm grateful for Mattel's reproduction of Barbie dolls for various anniversaries and such. This allows collectors to buy vintage dolls with their period fashions in mint condition and at a reasonable cost. They also introduce new generations of collectors to the classic dolls of yesteryear. I place them side-by-side with the original dolls because I believe a Barbie is a Barbie even if it's a reproduction!
An exclusive shot of the 1987 Rocker Barbie as model for my upcoming book, Behold the Valley of the Dolls.
Pink Inspiration Barbie
Princess Power Barbie
The Princess Power Barbie was given to me as gift from my friends Rachel and Sandy. She is the doll from the animated movie Barbie in Princess Power, which features Barbie as kind princess Kara who emerges into crime-fighting superhero Super Sparkle from a magical butterfly kiss. The Princess Power doll has a button on her chest that when pushed makes her gown spring open into star-sparkly wings. For San Diego Pride 2017 I didn't a photo series called "The Pride Project" and put the Super Sparkle Power Princess as its "LoveisLove" figurehead!
Blaine was a cute surfer from Australia introduced in the Cali Girl Barbie line-up (He was one of the "Cali Guys" along with Ken and Steven). Blaine is notable (and the reason I like him) for throwing a wrench in the courtship of Barbie and Ken. Yep, Barbie broke up with her boyfriend of 43 years to have a fling with a hot Aussie. Personally I think Ken had grown boring and his sexuality was even in question (helloo, remember the Earring Magic Ken?) so I can't blame Barbie. For nearly two years, Blaine was the man in Barbie's life. Their relationship would eventually fade and by 2010, Barbie was back in Ken's arms.
It's truly a toss up between the Twist 'n Turn Barbie and Malibu Barbie as my favorite Barbie of all! I like the Malibu Barbie line because it personifies my love of all-things California, the place I've dreamed of since childhood and now call home. Wildly popular, the Malibu Sun Set reflected the laid-back, sun-loving SoCal attitude. The dolls came with golden tans and sun-streaked hair - worn long and straight with deep-side parts and no bangs (very 1970s Malibu). Their accessories included an assortment of cool beach paraphernalia, like surfboard, a speedboat, a Beach Bus camper, and a Sun-in-Fun dune buggy covered with groovy daisy decals. Surf's Up Barbie!
My beautiful reproduction-issued American Girl Barbie Dolls from 1965 and 1966. I love my vintage and my repros all the same!
Top (left to right): Later Malibu doll lines would include the 1976 Malibu Barbie (dressed for the American Bicentennial), 1979 Sun Lovin' Malibu Barbie (with real tan lines), 1984 Sun Gold Malibu Barbie (the last Malibu line), and designer Trina Turks's chic 2013 Malibu Barbie (inspired by the 1971 original).
Bottom (left to right): Since moving to Malibu in 1971, Barbie would remain a California Girl in numerous lines, such as 1988's California Dream, 2000's Surf City, and 2004's Cali Girl.
Ken loves Barbie. Blaine loves Barbie. Barbie loves... ???
As a collector, I'm often asked, "What is your favorite Barbie?"
Of course, typical me, it's not an easy question to answer.
I don't have one favorite doll, I have several - 25 to be exact!
Now I share my top favorite dolls through photographs not only from my collection but from my book, Behold the Valley of the Dolls, accompanied by pop culture-fueled descriptions of why these are
My Favorite Barbies.
Trench Setter, Silkstone Barbie
I'm such an admirer of cheerleading that if a Barbie is wearing a letter sweater, saddle shoes, and pom-poms (or in the case of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders - hot pants, go-go boots, and pom-poms) I'm most likely going to collect her. In my early days of collecting I used to have cheerleading try-outs for my Barbie and Ken dolls with the best making the varsity and jr. varsity squads (below).
1997 & 2001
Marilyn Monroe is the idol of my life! Actually that's an understatement... I love Marilyn Monroe more than anything or anyone in pop culture. I've loved her since I was a child. Through the years I've collected more Marilyn items than anything else (besides Barbie). As a young man I was commonly told I looked like a "male Marilyn Monroe." In the 1980s I dated a fantastic make-up artist who insisted he make me up as Marilyn for Halloween. The result? Bottom center photo!
Needless to say I was thrilled when Mattel created Barbie as Marilyn Monroe in the Hollywood Legends series in 1997, and later produced a series of Marilyn Monroe dolls in the early-2000s.
Barbie & the Rockers
The Barbie & the Rockers are special to me because they were the dolls that put me on the path of Barbie collecting after I received the set as a birthday present in September 1987. Introduced in 1986, the Rockers are a neon-garbed, big-haired, totally rad New Wave Band headed by by the multi-talented Barbie. Joining her in the line-up were boyfriend Ken, redhead Diva, Asian-American Dana, African-American Dee Dee, and Hispanic Derek. The set I received as a birthday gift was the second-issued Barbie & the Rockers (above right).
Barbie Basics Denim, Model No. 11
Barbie's Friend Ship
The Barbie's Friend Ship wasn't an actual doll line but a cool carrying case accessory (a "compact flight bag") that opens to become the interior of a United Airlines airplane so that our favorite fashion doll could demonstrate her social graces as Stewardess Barbie while her sweetheart did the guy thing as Pilot Ken. My sister Kim had the Barbie's Friend Ship, and I have fond memories of us playing with it together. the photo on the bottom right is the 1975 Free Moving Barbie, dressed in the United Airlines Stewardess Uniform, Get Ups 'n Go #7703 (sold separately).
Artifacts from a '70s teen idol crush: Farrah artwork from freshman year art class (I know, such a masterpiece), a page from my "Farrah Fawcett Scrapbook," a 1976 People magazine cover story on Charlie's Angels, and my original Farrah poster and t-shirt (purchased from Spencer's Gifts at Springfield Mall in 1977 ... and it still fits!).
Barbie Loves Pop Culture, TV Collections
Mattel's Barbie Loves Pop Culture collection, featuring Barbie as favorite TV gals like Samantha Stephens of Bewitched, Jeannie of I Dream of Jeannie, and Ann Marie of That Girl, won my pop culture aficionado's heart For over a decade a variety of pop culture-themed dolls were released, from The Addams Family to Carol Burnett, Wonder Woman to Dynasty, Star Trek to Scooby-Doo, and I collected as many as my wallet would allow! Barbie's pop culture TV collections seem to have ceased, and I'm a little disappointed there weren't more classic sitcom gals produced. Can you imagine how fun if there were a Barbie as Ginger and Mary Ann in Gilligan's Island, ...Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun, ...Lisa Douglas in Green Acres, ...Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show?
#thedollevolves Although the Fashionistas line had been around since 2009 it wasn't until 2016 that the doll evolved, becoming the most diverse Barbie line in history. Barbie now comes in four different body types - curvy, petite, tall, and original - and a multitude of ethnicities, involving facial shapes, skin tones, hair styles, and a wide range of fashions. The next year Ken would evolve too with three different body types - broad, slim, and original. These are the most realistic dolls on the market, and children can identify with them since they look like people they actual could know. I'm hooked on these dolls, and have more Fashionistas in my collection than any other line!
British supermodel Twiggy, Big Eye Go-Go Girls, and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots are Made for Walkin'" - Welcome to my 1960s childhood!
Glam Gown, Silkstone Barbie
Fashionistas Blond Kens
Twist 'n Turn Barbie
Although my childhood memories of Barbie go back to the original Ponytail Barbie my older sister Paula played with in the early-1960s, it's the Twist n' Turn Barbie I remember my exact age group of girl friends playing with. I was turning six when the new Twist 'n Turn dolls hit the toy stores. Barbie had a new body, with bendable knees and a waist that swiveled back and forth, allowing her to "twist." She had younger, more innocent face, with bee-stung lips, big blue eyes and real eyelashes. Her total style - long straight hair and groovy fashions (e.g. mini-skirts and go-go boots) - represented the mod world swirling around my 1960s childhood that I love so much... and that's why this is my first favorite Barbie, literally!
"My Two Kens" placed on my desk; totems of inspiration as I work on and write "Behold the Valley of the Dolls."
Water Play Ken
Far Out, Twist 'n Turn Barbie
In 2017, thirty years after Barbie & the Rockers made their debut, Mattel created a reboot of the band (minus the boys). These Millenial-era Rockers weren't as rad, nor as big of sellers as their 1980s predecessors. Although I was initial excited about collecting these the only thing I find exciting is the band's drummer with the Neapolitan-hued Afro and made-to-move body (below). She's a "Hot Rockin' Rockstar!"
Pom Pom Divas
The Pom Pom Divas weren't a squad of cheerleaders who just stood and looked pretty. The Pom Pom Divas performed actual cheerleading stunts. They were capable of twirling, kicking, flipping, flying through the air, and shoulder stands. Yep, these gals are so cheer-rific they all make the team!
"Sharon Tate in Behold the Valley of the Dolls."
I have loved Sharon Tate since I can remember (and I remember her untimely death in 1969). Despite being the woman who inspired Mattel to create the Malibu Barbie, there is not an actual Barbie of Sharon, who is considered a significant 1960s fashion icon. So I got to work and reimagined a doll that I thought resembled Sharon, the I Dream of Summer Barbie. I restyled and cut her hair and searched to find the perfect MOD baby doll mini-dresses and go-go boots Sharon would've worn in real life. It took me months to pull these photographs together. For the center photo, I added the "Dolls" pill container and pill capsules as a nod to her best known movie, Valley of the Dolls. I love how my Sharon Tate Barbie turned out!
My Favorite Barbies
by David Mansour
My Favorite Muses
There are certain Barbie and Ken dolls that I'm more attracted to than others. I find they are ideal models for a photo shoot and my camera naturally adores them. These are my favorite muses ...
I caught the Fashion Fever! These fashion-centric dolls were introduced to boost Mattel's Barbie sales which began to slide in the early-2000s. The dolls came in plastic tubes and had modern features and realistic fashions. Fashion Fever was hot and wide ranging, with seemingly endless dolls. I like Barbie dolls that are different from one another so that's why I pick the Fashion Fever line as my top favorite of the 2000s. It also introduced many new Barbie friends, including one of my favorites: Raquelle, a stunning brunette (below center). She would become Barbie's "frenemy" in Life in the Dreamhouse.
Skipper, France, P.J. and Christie were part of the popular Malibu Doll line along with Barbie and Ken.
That's Malibu Christie crusin' along the PCH in the Barbie Beach Buggy (below)!
Silkstone Fashion Model, Lingerie Barbie
Silkstone Barbie dolls are also known as Fashion Model Barbie and Lingerie Model Barbie dolls. They are made out of very hard plastic that feels like silky porcelain to the touch, hence the name Silkstone. I like their vintage-style Barbie faces and find them ideal to photograph. I've used these dolls for a variety of shoots, which often capture an old school pin-up or boudoir photography feel.