Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barbie unrolls pink carpet for 50th birthday

NEW YORK (AFP) - - Barbie unrolled the pink carpet Monday to celebrate her 50th birthday at a life-sized version of her Malibu Dream House.

"Barbie's birthday is a celebration of 50 legendary years as a fashion icon, pop culture princess and inspiration to so many girls around the world," said Richard Dickson, general manager at Mattel's.

Celebrities were expected to pack the California beachside pad to join Barbie, the best selling doll in history and embodiment of the Californian dream of eternal youth.

The 29-centimeter (11.4-inch) beauty made her debut back at the 1959 New York Toy Fair, selling for three dollars, with outfits at between one and five dollars.

Since then she has been outfitted for 108 careers as diverse as astronaut and White House candidate, modelled for more than 70 real life couturiers, and broken up with her plastic boyfriend of 43 years, Ken.

She heads into her second half century without a wrinkle or grey hair.

A new Bathing Suit Barbie released to mark her birthday recalls the original doll with a black and white swimsuit. Her face, though, bears the hallmarks of 21st century fashion demands, described by Mattel as "a thinner jaw line, more almond-shaped eyes, fuller lips."

If anyone is feeling Barbie's age, it's the executives at Mattel.

Sales plunged 21 percent in the last quarter of 2008 and Barbie is still not completely free of her nemesis of the last seven years, a group of big-eyed, wild-haired rivals called Bratz.

Mattel last year successfully sued to prevent MGA Entertainment from making or selling Bratz, after a court ruled that its creator had conceived of the idea while he was still employed by Mattel.

However, the court granted a reprieve for Bratz so that the dolls can remain on sale through this year.

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