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Barbie's New Maya Angelou Doll Is Already Sold Out

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When you're a parent of small children, at some point, you come across a Barbie children's book. She is white. She is blond. She is skinny. And she's spending time with her friends, going from poolside to parties, to the mall.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Nothing wrong with that life if you have it. But the makers of Barbie have been criticized for years because their product doesn't reflect the range of how girls look or what they can grow up to be. Now, this explains why the company has been marketing different kinds of dolls. The most recent item in this collection is the figure of the poet Maya Angelou.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYA ANGELOU: Here, on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out and into your sister's eyes.

INSKEEP: A doll of the late Black poet is now available wearing a full-length print dress. She is holding a copy of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," which is her most famous book. One of our colleagues at MORNING EDITION has two nieces who are big Barbie fans. Their names are Cherish (ph) and Morgan (ph). And they're all in.

CHERISH: I love her.

MORGAN: I want to be a writer, too. So like, that would be a good doll for me.

KING: For a lot of girls, it seems, the doll was available for pre-order last week. And it sold out online in two days. Lisa McKnight is the head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel. That's the company that makes them.

LISA MCKNIGHT: You know, we're leading into Black History Month. And, I think, also, the buildup to the inauguration just really helped make this particular doll incredibly timely.

INSKEEP: Ah, yes, the inauguration. Maya Angelou once read a poem at an inauguration for President Clinton in 1993. This week, another Black woman, Amanda Gorman, read a poem for Joe Biden's inauguration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMANDA GORMAN: When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn balloons as we free it. For there was always lights if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it.

KING: Gorman took many viewers' breath away with her words and, also, truth be told, with that red headband and mustard coat. Lisa McKnight of Mattel was watching and saw an opportunity.

MCKNIGHT: Oh, my goodness. I was texting with my team saying, we've got to reach out to Amanda Gorman. What can we do to celebrate and honor her? She's just such a point of inspiration and really amazingly talented young woman and quite the role model.

KING: She says the company would like to see if Amanda Gorman could become a doll, like Maya Angelou.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANDBOOK'S "UNKNOWN DESIRE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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