11 Fun Facts About Barbie

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iStock.com/ivanastar

Barbie celebrates her 60th birthday this year, and Mattel is going all out for her big day. Her "diamond jubilee" doll is available, a large Barbie pop-up experience will open in New York City on her "birthday," and a seven-month Barbie 'Be Anything' Tour featuring country singer Kelsea Ballerini will hit 34 Walmarts across the country. How she looks so good for being nearly six decades old, we'll probably never know, but we do know these other fun Barbie factoids.

1. She was born on March 9, 1959.

Barbie's official birthday represents her public debut at the 1959 American International Toy Fair in New York. She stood 11 inches tall and was dressed for a pool party in her black and white striped one-piece. Barbie was instantly recognizable as the only toy in the doll aisle that wasn't modeled as a baby or a little kid—having a grown woman as a plaything for children was an entirely new concept. One thing she didn't have at first? A belly button. That was added to her design more than 40 years later, in 2000.

2. She was created by an engineer who used to work for the Pentagon.

Jack Ryan began his career as an engineer, making missiles for the Pentagon, but was eventually hired away by Mattel for his "space-age savvy" and knowledge of materials (meaning, he'd be able to make high-quality, well-functioning toys). His designs helped give Barbie her twistable waist and "click click" knee joints.

3. She was based on an R-rated German doll.

A vintage Barbie wearing lingerie
Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images

Though Ryan designed Barbie, the concept came from Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler. Handler was traveling through Europe with her kids when she came across the Germany-born Bild Lilli doll, who was anything but kid-friendly: Lilli was a high-class call girl who began her life as a comic and was sold in smoke shops, adult toy stores, and other not-kid-friendly places. But Handler, who had mentioned the idea of an adult doll to her Mattel exec husband before, liked what she saw. Though her husband, Elliot, had initially balked at the idea, the Lilli dolls sold him on the concept. Though Bild Lilli's manufacturer initially sued Mattel for patent infringement, the case was eventually dismissed and Mattel officially bought the rights to the doll for $21,600.

4. Barbie is named after the creators' daughter.

Barbara Handler, daughter of Ruth Handler and namesake inspiration for the Barbie doll, poses for a photograph after placing her hands in cement that will adorn the sidewalk at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2002.
Barbara Handler, daughter of Ruth Handler and namesake inspiration for the Barbie doll, poses for a photograph after placing her hands in cement that will adorn the sidewalk at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2002.
Robert Mora/Getty Images

Barbie is named after the Handlers' daughter, Barbara. Ken is named after their son, Kenneth. In Barbie's world, her parents are George and Margaret Roberts from Willows, Wisconsin. Other family members include her siblings: Skipper, Tutti, Todd, Stacie, Kelly, Chelsea, and Krissy. Tutti and Todd are twins … but so are Todd and Stacie, apparently (at least according to Todd's box). She also has cousins named Francie and Jazzie.

5. One of her siblings went missing.

A Barbie van filled with dolls
Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images

Only adding to that whole twin sibling mystery: Tutti mysteriously disappeared in 1971, so we can only assume that Stacie (introduced in 1992) is Tutti reincarnated.

6. She's been at the center of some very real body-image controversies.

The waists of four Barbie dolls in red swimsuits
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Barbie has been at the center of many body image controversies over the years due to her ridiculously svelte-yet-busty figure. Mattel makes Barbie at a 1/6 scale, which is standard scale for action figures. This would make Barbie's measurements 38-18-28 (reports vary based on versions of dolls). Various outlets and organizations have pointed out how these proportions make her more than just an unrealistic standard—they would make a human woman physically incapable of walking, holding up her head, or having fully functioning internal organs. Mattel has responded to calls for change by releasing a number of dolls with varying body types, skin tones, and hairstyles.

7. One special-edition Barbie came with a weight loss book that included "Don't Eat" as a tip.

A girl plays with a Barbie and Ken doll in 1961.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Making body-image matters even worse is a piece of Barbie's history—1965's Slumber Party Barbie came with her very own "How to Lose Weight" book, which included tips like "don't eat." She also came with a bathroom scale that put the 5'9" Barbie in at 110 pounds. Well, 5'9" if you consider the 1/6 scale, which makes Barbie about 35 pounds underweight.

8. An original Barbie is worth some serious money today.

An original Barbie from 1959
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The first Barbie sold for $3 each (various accessories were extra). Today, an original in mint condition could likely fetch nearly $25,000 at auction. Of course, plenty of non-mint Barbies are also worth a pretty penny, and are regularly for sale on eBay and through various vintage retailers.

9. There have been lots of celebrity dolls.

An Elizabeth Taylor Barbie doll.
An Elizabeth Taylor Barbie doll.
Mattel/Online USA

British fashion icon Twiggy was the first real-life celebrity to get her own Barbie—the supermodel's doll wore a mod mini-skirt, go-go boots, and her signature spider lashes. Numerous other famous people have had their own Barbies as well, including dolls wearing the classic looks of Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn, as well as more modern women like Nicki Minaj, J.K. Rowling, Gigi Hadid, and Ava Duvernay.

10. Barbie's first career was as a teen model.

ASL Barbie
Photo courtesy of Mattel/Hulton Archive

Since embarking on her first career as a teen fashion model, Barbie has had may other jobs, including: a fashion editor, a flight attendant, a ballerina, a tennis pro, an executive, a candy striper, an astronaut, a surgeon, Miss America, a gold medal gymnast, an actress, an aerobics instructor, a reporter, a rock star, a UNICEF ambassador, an army officer, a rapper, a chef, a police officer, a Rockette, a baseball player, a SCUBA diver, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Squadron Leader, a paleontologist, a NASCAR driver, a pilot, a sign language teacher, a presidential candidate, an American Idol winner, a zoologist, a Space Camp instructor, and a fashion intern (which, ironically, came decades after her fashion editor gig). And this list is by no means exhaustive—she's had more than 200 careers so far.

11. Her signature color, in case you hadn't noticed, is pink.

Row of Barbies in pink boxes
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Specifically, Barbie's pink is Pantone color PMS 219 C (and yes, there is a special Barbie with a dress made out of Pantone swatches).

A shorter version of this story originally ran in 2009.

25 Amazing Facts About the Human Body

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iStock.com/kali9

The human body is an amazing piece of machinery—with a few weird quirks.

  1. It’s possible to brush your teeth too aggressively. Doing so can wear down enamel and make teeth sensitive to hot and cold foods.

  2. Goose bumps evolved to make our ancestors’ hair stand up, making them appear more threatening to predators.

Woman's legs with goosebumps
iStock.com/MyetEck
  1. Wisdom teeth serve no purpose. They’re left over from hundreds of thousands of years ago. As early humans’ brains grew bigger, it reduced space in the mouth, crowding out this third set of molars.

  2. Scientists aren't exactly sure why we yawn, but it may help regulate body temperature.

  3. Your fingernails don’t actually grow after you’re dead.

  4. If they were laid end to end, all of the blood vessels in the human body would encircle the Earth four times.

  5. Humans are the only animals with chins.

    An older woman's chin
    iStock.com/mhelm3011
    1. As you breathe, most of the air is going in and out of one nostril. Every few hours, the workload shifts to the other nostril.

    2. Blood makes up about 8 percent of your total body weight.

    3. The human nose can detect about 1 trillion smells.

    4. You have two kidneys, but only one is necessary to live.

    5. Belly buttons grow special hairs to catch lint.

      A woman putting her hands in a heart shape around her belly button
      iStock.com/PeopleImages
      1. The satisfying sound of cracking your knuckles comes from gas bubbles bursting in your joints.

      2. Skin is the body’s largest organ and can comprise 15 percent of a person’s total weight.

      3. Thumbs have their own pulse.

      4. Your tongue is made up of eight interwoven muscles, similar in structure to an elephant’s trunk or an octopus’s tentacle.

      5. On a genetic level, all human beings are more than 99 percent identical.

        Identical twin baby boys in striped shirts
        iStock.com/BorupFoto
        1. The foot is one of the most ticklish parts of the body.

        2. Extraocular muscles in the eye are the body’s fastest muscles. They allow both of your eyes to flick in the same direction in a single 50-millisecond movement.

        3. A surgical procedure called a selective amygdalohippocampectomy removes half of the brain’s amygdala—and with it, the patient’s sense of fear.

        4. The pineal gland, which secretes the hormone melatonin, got its name from its shape, which resembles a pine nut.

        5. Hair grows fast—about 6 inches per year. The only thing in the body that grows faster is bone marrow.

          An African-American woman drying her hair with a towel and laughing
          iStock.com/GlobalStock
          1. No one really knows what fingerprints are for, but they might help wick water away from our hands, prevent blisters, or improve touch.

          2. The heart beats more than 3 billion times in the average human lifespan.

          3. Blushing is caused by a rush of adrenaline.

8 Facts About Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was a multi-talented children’s author, comic artist, poet, playwright, and songwriter, and above all else, a rule-breaker. From The Giving Tree to Where the Sidewalk Ends, his titles are beloved by children and adults alike. At the time they were written, though, they defied common notions about what a "children’s" story could and should be. This isn’t all that surprising, considering that the Chicago-born author, who passed away in 1999, led a pretty unconventional life. Here are eight things you might not know about him.

1. One of Shel Silverstein's first jobs was selling hot dogs in Chicago.

Shel Silverstein didn’t always want to be a writer, or even a cartoonist or songwriter. His first love was baseball. "When I was a kid—12, 14, around there—I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls," he once said in an interview. "But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance. Luckily, the girls didn’t want me; not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write.” The closest he came to his MLB dream was when he landed a stint at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, selling hot dogs to White Sox fans.

2. Silverstein never finished college.

Silverstein was expelled from one school (the University of Illinois) and dropped out of another (the School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Finally, he managed to get through three years of the English program at Chicago's Roosevelt University, but his studies came to an abrupt end when he was drafted in 1953.

3. Silverstein was a Korean War veteran.

In the 1950s, Silverstein was drafted into the U.S. armed service. While he was stationed in Korea and Japan, he also worked as a cartoonist for the military publication Stars and Stripes. It was his first big cartooning gig. "For a guy of my age and with my limited experience to suddenly have to turn out cartoons on a day-to-day deadline deadline, the job was enormous,'' Silverstein told Stars and Stripes in a 1969 interview.

4. Silverstein worked for Playboy magazine and was Part of Hugh Hefner's inner circle.

That’s right: the lovable children’s author was on Playboy’s payroll for many years. He started drawing comics for the men’s magazine in the 1950s and ended up becoming close friends with Hugh Hefner. In fact, he often spent weeks or even months at the Playboy Mansion, where he wrote some of his books. His cartoons for the magazine proved so popular that Playboy sent him around the world to find the humor in places like London, Paris, North Africa, and Moscow during the Cold War. Perhaps his most off-color assignment, though, was visiting a nudist camp in New Jersey. These drawings were compiled in the 2007 book Playboy's Silverstein Around the World, which includes a foreword from Hefner.

5. Silverstein wrote Johnny Cash's hit song "A Boy Named Sue."

Few people know that Silverstein was a songwriter, too. One of his biggest hits was the comical tale of a boy who learned how to defend himself after being relentlessly bullied for his feminine-sounding name, Sue. The song was popularized by Johnny Cash and ended up being his top-selling single, while Silverstein was awarded a Grammy for Best Country Song. You can watch Silverstein strumming the guitar and shouting the lyrics alongside Cash on The Johnny Cash Show in the video above. Silverstein also wrote a follow-up song from the dad’s point of view, The Father of a Boy Named Sue, but it didn't take off the way the original did.

6. Silverstein is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Three years after his death, Silverstein was inducted posthumously into this exclusive society of songwriters. He wrote more than 800 songs throughout his career, some of which were quite raunchy. But his best-known songs were performed by country legends like Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings. “His compositions were instantly identifiable, filled with elevated wordplay and captivating, humor-filled narratives,” the Nashville Songwriters Foundation said of Silverstein's music.

7. Silverstein wrote the first children’s book to appear on The New York Times best sellerS list.

A Light in the Attic (1981) was the first children’s book to ever make it onto the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers list. It remained there for a whopping 182 weeks, breaking all of the previous records for hardcover books at that time.

8. Silverstein wasn't a fan of happy endings.

If you couldn’t already tell by The Giving Tree’s sad conclusion, Silverstein didn’t believe in giving his stories happy endings. He felt that doing so would alienate his young readers. "The child asks why I don't have this happiness thing you're telling me about, and comes to think when his joy stops that he has failed, that it won't come back,” the author said in a 1978 interview. This turned out to be a risky move, and The Giving Tree was rejected several times for being too sad or too unconventional. Fortunately, after four years of searching for a publisher, it found a home at HarperCollins (then Harper & Row) and has gone on to become one of the best-selling—and most beloved—children's books of all time.

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