Times are a-changin.

In honor of International Women's Day, the makers of Barbie — who only a year ago turned their flagship doll into an engineer — are about to release a trio of diverse, fiercely feminist dolls modeled after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, American pilot Amelia Earhart, and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

The new series, “Inspiring Women,” is part of a larger initiative by the company to educate young girls about some of the most rebellious and daring women in history. Each doll will come with the real woman’s backstory.


“As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honoring its largest line up of role models timed to International Women’s Day, because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see,” Lisa McKnight, the senior vice president and general manager of Barbie, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In case you need one, here’s a crash course on these three badass women.

Photos via Barbie/Mattel.

Earhart, known as the “Queen of Air,” was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. Kahlo is known as a legendary artist whose timeless paintings and self-portraits depicting the triumph and trials of womanhood. And in case you didn’t see “Hidden Figures,” Johnson was a mathematician who trail-blazed a path for black women in STEM. If it weren’t for her calculations, astronaut Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have made that “giant leap for mankind” on the moon in 1969.

The new line is the company’s latest effort to promote diversity, inclusivity, and representation.

In the past, the toy seriously lacked diversity when it comes to body proportions, cultural backgrounds, and skin tones. For years, Mattel has been on the receiving end of numerous critiques on how Barbie — a supermodel-tall, disproportionately skinny, white, blue-eyed blonde — sets an unrealistic standard for young girls.

In an attempt to fix that, Mattel has launched a series of campaigns to empower young girls with dolls with realistic body types and multiple skin tones. The “You Can Be Anything” line includes dolls with “three body types (tall, curvy, petite), seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles.”

Then, in May 2016, Mattel announced their “Sheroes” line of dolls featuring numerous notable women who shattered stereotypes and broke boundaries in industries where they are underrepresented. Some of the women featured are actresses Kristin Chenoweth, Zendaya, and Emmy Rossum; directors Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay; Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim; and first-ever African-American principal ballet dancer, Misty Copeland.

For International Women’s Day on March 8, the brand stated they will be honoring and sparking conversations about the 17 global female role models featured in the their “Shero” program.

One year later, Mattel announced fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad as their first hijabi Barbie doll. In 2016, Muhammad became the first American to compete in the Olympic Games while wearing a hijab.

Katherine Johnson doll.

Let’s hope this new line — as well as Mattel’s continued efforts to champion female empowerment and representation will inspire a whole generation of young women that they can do anything.

“Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real life role models to remind them that they can be anything,” McKnight said in the Mattel statement.

The doll company has made an entire fortune of Barbie pursuing numerous of ambitious careers from doctor to lawyer to astronaut. But with the “Inspiring Women” series, young kids around the world will learn more about the real women — some of whom look a lot like them — who overcame real challenges and made a real impact in the world.

And, just maybe, one of these young girls will grow up to have a doll made in honor of them.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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