Mattel released a Maya Angelou Barbie Jan. 14 in honor of the powerful legacy she left behind. The doll is the most recent addition to Mattel’s Inspiring Women collection, which includes icons such as Rosa Parks, Ella Fitzgerald and Kathrine Johnson.
Angelou is now the third Black woman to be added to the Inspiring Women line of Barbie dolls. Shaped to her likeness, Maya Angelou Barbie comes clothed in a dashiki style dress with prints that originate from Africa with a head wrap to match. She also comes with a tiny replica of her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The doll is available for purchase on Mattel’s official website in addition to retail stores such as target.
In 1993, Angelou paved the way for young creatives such as National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman who became the first female African American poet to speak at a presidential inauguration ceremony.
She recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” for the induction of former President Bill Clinton.
Angelou earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, three Grammy awards for her spoken word albums, over 50 honorary doctorate degrees, the National Medal of Arts and the Literarian Award by the National Book Foundation for her 1969 autobiography.
The prestigious accolades Angelou earned during her lifetime indicates her widespread effect on American culture. It is not what she accomplished that made her so special, but the feelings she left people with after listening to her spoken word or reading her poetry.
When it comes to young adults like IU senior Priscilla Goodwine, Angelou’s work serves as inspiration, motivation and guidance as she finds their place in the world.
Angelous’s sense of self-confidence displayed in her work has had a profound influence on the way Goodwine navigates life as a young Black woman, she said.
“Maya’s poem ‘Still I Rise’ helped me to overcome in the summertime when everything was going on with police brutality and BLM because the poem says to me that as a people, Black people, we will still rise despite the way society tries to keep us down,” Goodwine said.
Goodwine said Angelou’s words provide her with hope, comfort and motivation.
“Reading her work is comforting because it was written by a black woman who had endured the worst of the civil rights movement and her life is testament to the poem,” Goodwin said. “Seeing her keep pushing despite hard times is very motivating and inspirational. It shows me that no matter what comes my way racism, sexism or even people discounting my worth, I will still rise just like she said in her poem.”
The road to recognition starts at home, Goodwine said. With your mothers, sisters, aunties and every other Black woman in your circle.
“We need to be vocal about our appreciation of what Black women provide while they are here,” Goodwine said. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg got so many things to honor her while she was alive but we don’t see that happening as often for Black women”.