Better than Barbie

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

In the first 10 years of my adult life, I made a point in devoting myself to helping the community — namely, children — while I “drove in Automatic” in my career.  I would work 9 to 5 (okay, more like 8 to 6 or 8 to 8, sometimes longer) and then volunteer on the weekends, such as being a Big Sister or volunteering in the Pediatric department of a hospital.  That was how I kept things in balance.

Once I left the Corporate World, I was a teacher for a few years.  My desire was to teach in a public school in an economically challenged urban area.  I viewed my role as a Teacher to be far more than just infusing academia into the lives of my students.  I made it my goal to use my time with them as a special opportunity to help them in their lives.  Whether it was to help them navigate through a particular hardship, teach them to make good decisions, or believe in themselves.

It is similar to how I find parenting to be now:  you do what you can to give them life tools, but then you let them go… and pray they learned something!

The Barbie Project

When I taught Middle School Math, my spin on my lesson plans was relating Math to the “real world”, so students could see how math could be applied in different jobs as well as life concepts — beyond simple arithmetic.

For my older students, I focused on business and had a project on the stock market.  For my younger students, we had a project on scale, ratio and measurement, called The Barbie Project.

Yep, I subjected all my students to working with Barbie dolls for a couple weeks!  They had to measure them and draw them (with the same proportions), but scaled to a real life size.  The results were astonishing, and the students were just as puzzled as the adults when they saw the results with their own eyes.

What people interpreted as a gorgeous representation of an American beauty — Barbie — turned out to be something of an Amazonian freak of nature!  I can’t remember the exact measurements because this was ages ago, but she was something like 6 feet tall with a 10.5″ waist, 44″ chest, child-size head and child-size feet!


My students and I enjoyed discussing what Barbie would be like if she were real.  Hmmmm….she’d probably be in a wheel chair because she wouldn’t be able to stand up or even hold her head up.  We all agreed that Real Life Barbie would be highly UNattractive!

We talked about the definition of “beauty” and how it shouldn’t be defined by the media or even the people around us.  We talked about how there are many different definitions of beauty.  And the most important definition is our own.

[Please note:  This blog is not to frown upon Mattel or any other toy manufacturer, but I used this Barbie project as a segway to discussing how the media influences our perception of beauty.  How can our little girls (and boys) grow up to feel beautiful when they see images, drawings and dolls that have unrealistic traits and measurements that they can never live up to?]

Better Than Barbie

Now, let’s fast-forward:  I stopped teaching after 3 years, got married, moved and had a baby.

Fast-forward to yesterday:  One of my former students volunteered to be my model for a photoshoot.  I haven’t seen her for about 10 years!  I first met her when she was ELEVEN!

There are so many things that was cool about seeing her yesterday.  For one, I got to see how she turned out as an adult!  She is bright, charming, independent, thoughtful and creative.  I don’t even need to mention that she is beautiful.  Just look at her photos below!

What blew me away is what she told me at the end of her shoot…

She said that she thinks about my Barbie lesson during the times she doesn’t feel good about herself.  And that makes her feel better!

She said that the lesson is something she will remember for the rest of her life.  And she thanked me.

I am incredibly humbled and touched.

I think the most gratifying feeling in the World is to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.


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