All I Really Needed to Know I Learned from Black Barbie

From the AWESOME Flicker photostream of Mieke Linden

Growing up as a FBQ in training during the early 70’s in Chocolate City, I had already begun to learn the duality involved in being black and gay. Wanting to fit in, I did my best to hide my true fierceness and passions from the world. Which is why I had to covertly indulge in my love for All Things Barbie. I would sneak into the rooms of my cousins and nieces on visits to their houses, and play with their dolls. I’d fix the HIDEOUS hairstyles that they had subjected Miss B. Millicent Roberts to, and put her in the appropriate outfit. Later on, when I began to receive an allowance, I would buy my own Barbies and surreptitiously sew gowns for them that I’d seen in Ebony Magazine. In college I used to smugly tell my good friend Keith that, unlike the stereotypical Queen, I had no female icon that I deified like Midler, Cher or Diana Ross. He would look at me equally as smugly and declare: “Yes you do. Barbie.” The perceptive, diva bitch was right: I definitely heart Barbie.

In retrospect, I realized that like many children, I learned valuable lessons about life while playing with these miniature divas. And I was especially schooled, albeit unconsciously, by the emergence of dolls of color into the Fashion Doll Community. I’d like to share some of those lessons with you.

1967 Colored version of Barbie's cousin Francie


1. If you hang on long enough, the world will finally have to acknowledge you exist. (Barbie debuted in 1959. The first “Barbie of Color” didn’t appear until 1967. But once you go black, you never go back.)

2. Having powerful white friends can get you places.(Being one of Barbie’s “Registered Friends” puts you in the chicest of Doll Circles)

3. Having a tough plastic skin helps to get you through those bumps and drops along the way.(As a kid, my best friend Charles and I put our Barbies through Hell.)

4. Dipping you in brown paint doesn’t necessarily make you black.(A lot of companies–including Mattel–use face molds with caucasian features, simply change the skin color and market them as “ethnic”–see Francie above.)

5. A man needs to offer you more than just what’s between his legs (‘Cause otherwise Ken would be USELESS).

2001 AA version of Oreo Barbie

6. A lot of white people mean well, but sometimes they. just. don’t. get. it.


















7. When you’re Unique, people want you more. (Since Mattel manufactures fewer dolls of color than their white counterparts, their value as a collectible is higher.)









And the most important thing I learned from Black Barbie:

8. The world (and non-porous plastic) is not going to accept you just because you try to paint yourself lighter with the pink tempera paint that you stole from Art Class in the third grade. Eventually it will dry and peel off anyway; so you might as well revel in your inherent beauty.

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For luck…

Are we all here?

Good! Let’s begin.

Well…

Why aren’t you SAYING anything?

Oh crap. You’re expecting ME to start, aren’t you?

Oh…okay.

Growing up middle class in Northeast Washington DC during the late sixties/early seventies was about as bucolic as you could get in the city. To this day, the tree-lined street on which I lived for so many years is far from the stereotypes of the DC ‘hood that you see on the local and national news. Large, unique houses with inviting lawns and wrap around porches were my playgrounds. We were the first black family to move into my neighborhood, and it pains me to say that I have no stories of racial hatred and ethnic violence. All of the white folks on our block embraced and welcomed us into their extended families. Sorry.

What I DO have are memories of late summer barbecues and clan gatherings during the holidays—fraught with rituals and traditions, which at the time I loathed for being too “black.” Now, heading into the latter chapters of my life, I see them as what they are: the “roots” that Alex Haley talked about which ground me deeply as a Black Man.

So, as a homage to those roots, I’m going to start this shindig with a tradition in my home, and just about every home I know in the African-American Community: the New Year’s Day Meal. We’ll start with Greens for Prosperity, Black-Eyed Peas for Good Luck and Cornbread….’cause it tastes FABULOUS.

Now that THAT is out of the way…where to go next?

See–that’s kind of the problem. It’s not that I’ve nothing to share. Hell, I’ve got opinions on everything. Shutting me up is harder to do than getting a Kardashian sister to give up black men. It’s just that…well… Do we REALLY NEED one more damned Blog?

by Randall Munroe

I’m new to this web logging thing. I started my first as a dynamic way to bring clarity to the next stage of my life. While my entries are sporadic, it is actually starting to accomplish the stated goal. And while it is really nice to be able to put my thoughts out there from time to time, I don’t see that particular enterprise as a forum or subject matter that has broad appeal. It’s basically verbal masturbation. Nothing wrong with a little bit of that from time to time, but the internet is chock full of literary jism–if you’ll pardon the term. No need to add my word count to that stream.

Yet something keeps tapping on my cyber shoulder in regards to an additional presence on the Web.

About a year or so ago, I found the fashion blog Tom & Lorenzo (TLo):a fun, frothy and often insightful place with two fabulous and opinionated queens at the helm. It was a heady experience being a part of their lively “commentariat.” I was completely humbled by the response that many people had to my posts. I began to define myself as a Special Guest Star–trying to entrench myself as Paul Lynde in the TLo Center Square. Once again, I found myself actively playing a supporting role in someone else’s life. I don’t want to do that any more.

Being a part of the TLo blog (and subsequently being dissed by them–a long story) made me recognize that I had been settling for commenting on stuff that may or may not have had any relevance in my life. And some content that, quite frankly, pissed me off.

But that wasn’t THEIR fault. No one held a gun to my skin taper with a #1 blade haircut head, to be a part of something that I didn’t always believe in. I did that myself. I enjoyed the attention, and I told myself that I was adding value.

But I realized I’m much more interested in finding other ways to add value on the Web. Value that, in my opinion, is sorely missing on this newfangled Internet-thingy. The value that only a Middle Aged Gay Black Queen can add.

So, like it or not, there is yet another Blog in Cyberspace. *SNAP*

What does that look like? Well…I’m not sure. I can tell you what it DOESN’T look like: it doesn’t look like a blog full of judging. There are enough places out there among the blips and bleeps where folks spend their time breaking others down. Most of us get enough of that in our lives in daily doses. I’d rather spend our time together building our shit up, rather than breaking it down.

It also doesn’t look like every stereotype you may have of a Black Queen. I like Barbie AND Football. I can be effeminate one minute and, unfortunately, entirely too chauvinistic the next. I have less interest in telling you what looks good on you, than I do in telling you how FIERCE I think you are (Oh, by the way, I’m taking that word back from Christian Siriano–no offense to him–the boy is BRILLIANT. But too many people think he invented Fierce as a gay expletive. It was around long before he was even a gay twinkle in his parents’ eye).

And I really would like to have your input. Let’s kee kee. Tell me what you’re looking to talk about. I’m game for just about anything. Remember, I grew up in the 70’s. So TELL ME? What’s missing in your Internet Life that a Husky Homosexual of Color might be able to offer? I’ll be setting up for a while, so you can tell me what pictures to hang in the Living Room (I do NOT do poker playing dogs or Elvis on velvet), and what libations you’d like in the bar. I got some collards on(try a little fresh thyme in the water along with the turkey neck bones); some black-eyed peas(bay leaf, cumin and a little cayenne pepper) and slammin’ cornbread (dollop of sour cream in the batter…oooooh chile).

Kick off them pumps and loafers gals and guys, grab a glass of Sweet Tea (I got some Jack Daniels somewhere if you need a kick) and come hang out with a Fierce Black Queen.