By Deven Green
Well Hello, Bill Greening is a dear friend of mine who happens to design Barbie. I thought you may enjoy his story.
Bill, tell us what you do with Barbie?
I’m a Principal Designer on Barbie Signature as well as the Barbie Brand Historian. I started at Mattel in 1999. I started working on play dolls for kids until 2006 when I started working on collectable Barbie dolls the Barbie Signature team.
2019 is a special anniversary year, isn’t it?
March 9, 2019 will be the 60th anniversary of her first debut at New York Toy March in 1959! We consider that her birthday here at Mattel. She is the #1 fashion doll in the world. It’s truly awesome the long-standing power of the Barbie doll and how many generations have enjoyed playing and collecting her. Today 58 million dolls are sold worldwide per year!
Which Barbie’s are you most proud of creating?
With the kid’s dolls, it’s very rewarding to see a child get a Barbie doll, that creates a fun happy memory. That this may be the doll they remember playing with for a life time. It’s funny because a lot of those kids what were five and six in the early 2000’s when I first started designing are now in their twenties. if I post one of my first designs on social media, I like to read the reactions and comments. Like ‘OMG I had that doll!’ Some of those Barbie dolls most remembered I designed are Cool Clips, Dream Glow, Picture Pockets, and Jam N/ Glam. In fact, the famous Saturday Night Live Barbie and Skipper spoof with Amy Poehler and Britney Spears, Jam N/ Glam Teresa is mentioned, I’m so honored!
In the collector line, I really love working on fantasy type dolls because you can really take the design into that over the top glamour that you might only see in movies, stage production, or some eccentric pop stars wardrobe. Barbie is a blank slate and she can be anything. Sone of my favorites are Unicorn Goddess Barbie, Goddess of the Galaxy Barbie, the Haunted Beauty Barbie line because I love Halloween!
There are some dolls, that I worked on, that seem to be favorites in the gay community as well like Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill Superman, Cher, Ladies of the 80’s Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, and Debbie Harry, Dynasty’s Krystle and Alexis, Farrah Fawcett, Tippy Hedren in The Birds, The Blonds Blond Diamond Barbie doll. It’s funny because the Blonds Barbie often turns up in many funny glamour diva type memes. I know the real-life Blonds, David And Phillipe, think this is funny too.
Why do you think Barbie is so popular with the Gay community?
I think many gay men have some sort of experience with Barbie. If they wanted a doll for themselves as a child, played with their sisters, or the best case had parents who just saw the doll as a toy not just a toy for girls and gave it to them. There is an allure with Barbie, the glamour, the larger than life persona. She’s an icon like Cher, Madonna, et cetera. She keeps serving your looks for the last 60 years. She evolves her look each decade, capturing cultural trends, fashion, and fads. She’s a little time capsule of pop culture. I always think drag queens emulate the top icons of pop culture Icons like Cher or Madonna, and I think it’s awesome when I see drag queens pay homage to Barbie. My friend Trinna Modele does Barbie in her show and the crowd goes wild. I’ve seen Violet Chachki do the 1959 Barbie look on social media. I have a picture of Lady Bunny standing next to Karl Lagerfeld at a Barbie event dressed up like my Pop Life Barbie design, and Trixie Mattel re-created a look from one of the dolls I worked on called Golden Dream Barbie from the Superstar Forever Series. That was a big honor to see people making the comparison of social media and tagging me.
Did Barbie help you come out?
Yes, I feel like Barbie has been my friend my whole life. She’s been my side for a long time. When I was very young like around four or five, I had my own Malibu Barbie dolls. It was ok to have them as a young boy, then suddenly it wasn’t. I think my mom was afraid what the neighbors would say when I got a little too old in her opinion. Funny though my dad never had an issue with me playing dolls and often bought me them when I got him to take me to the toy store! I always still found a way to play Barbie with girlfriends and my cousin. Around 17 years old, in 1988, I decided to start collecting Barbie. There was some resistance at first, but my Mom gave in and eventually joined me in the hobby. We went to doll shows and antique shops together and it became our time to hang out.
In 1990, I came out, I was 19. My mom really had a hard time with it. I think she always knew I was gay, but in that time period, the media was talking about the AIDS crisis, and I think my Mother’s reaction came out of a place of fear not hate. Thankfully, we had a neutral ground of Barbie collecting to keep us talking. It was a way for us to connect in a light-hearted way. The hobby gave us a neutral place to be together. My dad, in contrast, was always very cool. He believed we all walk our own path in life. My path was a gay man who collected and would eventually design for Barbie. It’s all I ever wanted to do since childhood. After design school, I landed my job at Mattel. My parents could not have been prouder. They even had a large Barbie display in their house of my work. They would show off to kids and the neighbors when they came over. Both my parents have passed away now. I’m very thankful they were on this journey with me, coming out, discovering my passion for doll design, and sharing the joy of Barbie. 2019 really gives me pause. A chance to think back, look forward and to celebrate along with Barbie.
Thank you so much Bill and congratulations.
Follow Bill on FB / IG @BillGreening