BOYS WANT BARBIE TOO!
Wowlebrity and comedianne Deven Green interviews Bill Greening, Principal Designer of Barbie whose career highlights include designing Farrah Fawcett, “Ladies of the 80’s,” “Dynasty,” “Wonder Woman,” “Hello Kitty,” “Hunger Games,” tokidoki Barbie and Ken dolls to name a few!
Deven: Bill, we are friends in real life and I have seen your signature Barbie creations up close. They are detailed, refined and crafted with care. But you also collaborate with some great celebrities and pop culture icons for Mattel.
Bill: Some of the names I’ve worked with in recent years include Tim Gunn, The Blonds, Trina Turk, and tokidoki. When working with a designer it is a partnership, collaborating with them on their vision of how they see Barbie, and I help them translate it into fashion doll scale. When working with a pop culture type of doll from a TV show or movie, it’s a little different. For example, Krystal and Alexis of “Dynasty.” I worked with the studio to recreate the characters. It’s harder than most people think, but very fun.
“Ladies of the 80’s” was another fun collaboration. Joan Jett and Debbie Harry were great to work with! To have a conference call with Joan or Debbie is surreal. They are icons. When I showed Joan the prototype backstage in her trailer before a concert, she was so excited to see the doll created in her image. Debbie did it too, because it was fun and cool…they got it.
Your designs are so glamorous; I would wear all her outfits.
Haha thank you Deven. There is something unique about being a designer for Barbie. As a child I was playing out “Charlie’s Angels” with my Barbie dolls, not playing house. My imagination for Barbie was adventurous and glamorous. When I began collecting Barbie as a teenager, it was compelling to touch all that high fashion and attitude of the vintage dolls from the 1960’s. I think you live through your dolls. I’ve loved her for so long that I want people to know that Barbie is the coolest doll ever.
Barbie has been around since 1959 but you know you are in the current cultural zeitgeist when there are videos such as the Moschino Barbie Commercial or the Hipster Barbie Instagram to name a few of the many creative ways Barbie has been posted online.
Barbie belongs to culture and we are honored that she inspires storytelling in different ways for different people. The Moschino Barbie fauxmercial was inspired by Jeremy Scott’s experience with Barbie and we love the positive response. I’m convinced there is a Barbie for everyone.
There are also videos of parents buying their son their first Barbie almost like a badge of honour.
As a child I viewed Barbie as the epitome of excitement and glamour. Kids don’t have the same stereotypes, they were just simply playing with toys. There are so many guys (gay and straight) that I have met over the years that loved playing Barbie dolls as a child. They may have played with a sibling or on their own. Giving your son a doll doesn’t make him gay, kids like what they like. I’m glad parents and society are finally coming around. It’s funny when I’m in a social situation and people find out what I do for a living, everybody has an opinion on Barbie, and a lot gay men have a Barbie story to share.
Gay men LOVE Barbie but quite frankly it defies gender.
Barbie has played a big part of my life even before I started my job at Mattel. When I was really little I had Barbie dolls and at some point my mom was worried about what the neighbors would say so the dolls disappeared. Ironically my dad never had an issue with me playing dolls. When I came out to my parents at 19 my Mom couldn’t get her head around it. We were fighting a lot. But, at this point, I had a decent Barbie collection and I was attending doll shows with my mom (she came around to the doll thing finally). We couldn’t talk about being gay but we had this neutral ground of going to doll shows and the hobby to keep the lines of communication open. It helped keep our relationship together. Barbie has been with me on my journey through life. Collecting Barbie made my coming out process easier. Now my parents display MY Barbie doll designs at their house. There is a Bill Greening shrine in their living room. They show off to the neighbors every time a new design is brought over. Dream come true. Full circle.
I’m not sure Barbie and company would be as inspiring, especially to pop artists, if there weren’t a subversive element to it such as Earring Magic Ken.
True. Remember that Barbie and Ken have been “dating” over 50 years. (Bill laughs out loud).
Barbie seems to have more potential.
There are some great Ken moments, but people can have more fun with the Barbie story line.
Barbie is a trendsetter.
When I think of the number of Barbie dolls sold at retailers for the last 55+ years, Barbie dolls are little time capsules reflecting trends in beauty, fashion and pop culture. With a collector Barbie doll; Barbie may be an elf, zombie bride, or galactic goddess but it is the fantasy that is inspirational. Even with collector dolls you have to think what is going on culturally. Zombies are trending, so I designed a Zombie Bride Barbie doll. Barbie can be anything, even a Zombie! As creative people it’s instinctual to know what is coming up next. In my opinion the gay community often seems to be one step ahead with popular culture.
2016 has Barbie on the cover of Time Magazine with Barbie’s new curve line. Plus, the release of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman!
Such a great time to be a designer at Mattel. It is really all about celebrating beauty with diversity.
Batman versus Superman movie is about to launch and the first images of the dolls were released recently. I loved working on this line. I’m a huge superhero fan and these characters were such an important part of my childhood growing up. I got a chance to visit the set, meet the costume designer and see the costumes up close. I mean I held Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso of Truth. HELLO! Died on the spot!
Barbie seems to be an icon in the drag community because…
Barbie is a blank slate. We, as Barbie designers and you as consumers, customize the canvas. Barbie likes to play dress up and she can wear many roles. Barbie is such a cultural icon I think it’s exciting if someone draws inspiration from her. With Barbie, the look needs to tell the story without words. Deven, you’re always trying on different looks. You are like Barbie!
Yes I am Bill.
To see Bill Greening’s latest creations go to: thebarbiecollection.com