I’ll never forget how it felt when my Dad handed me my very first Barbie.
From the moment he walked through the door carrying the life-size make-up doll, anything and everything Barbie-related featured heavily on my Christmas and birthday wish lists.
Effortlessly cool and on point, Barbie was, for me, a symbol of inspiration and limitless potential. Like the older sister I never had, Barbie and I reached many a milestone together. She taught me how to wear my hair in pigtails, let me experiment with make up on her without complaint (two words: blue eyeshadow) and helped me explore, and ultimately fall in love with my femininity.
No, she didn't look like me. Her hair wasn't a frizzy red mess, and her cheeks not rosy and blotchy. Looking back, it never fazed me that Barbie and I were different on the outside. To me, she meant so much more.
But the one-size-fits-all Barbie of years gone by is a thing of the past. Just like any modern woman, she's gone through the ups and downs of self-discovery, and come out the other side better for it.
Sure, she's made some wrong turns trying to get things right (namely, the unattainable waist-to-hip ratio), but who hasn't? To her credit, she's been working hard over the last decade to keep up with our ever-changing and progressive views. Barbie now comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, as well as several varying skin tones, eye colours and facial structures, because she knows a broader representation of beauty exists outside of her traditional blue-eyed, blonde-haired self.
Most importantly, the woman has been busy on the career front, teaching the next generation of girls they can be anything they want to be. Recently adding entrepreneur and web developer to her resume (complete with a LinkedIn profile endorsed by 10 real-life game-changing female entrepreneurs), Barbie has tried her hand at everything from secret agent, athlete and artist, to space explorer, firefighter, even a fairy princess.
But for the five-year-old me holding Barbie in my hands, none of that really mattered. I couldn't yet comprehend the idea of having a job, and my self-image didn't yet dominate my thoughts. The important thing was what the Barbie represented, the special bond between my dad and I.
The relationship between a dad and his daughter is a treasured one. In my case, I've always been daddy's girl, something which I've carried with me through life with pride. When I was a little girl, I would put on 'after dinner shows' with my younger brother and Barbie in tow, bringing my dad into the fantasy world I'd imagined up that day.
As I grew up, he taught me the admittedly very little I know about life - how to be resilient, who to trust, to be confident and fearless, and humble. From a young age, I've always looked up to my dad as the kind of person I want to be, and he had a huge impact on my social, intellectual and emotional development.
And I'm not the only daughter who feels this way. According to a Wake Forrest University study, girls who have strong relationships with their fathers early on are more likely to graduate from university, enter the work force at a higher position, have emotionally stable relationships (particularly with men), and have higher self-esteem and self-image.
These are the tools for success Dad helped to instil in me, and it all started way back when he picked out a Barbie over every other doll on the shelf. It was a gift of ambition, hope and self-confidence, which is what Dad really gave me when he gifted me with that Barbie.
So thank you, Dad for buying me my first Barbie. You chose well.
What's your best Barbie memory? Share with us in the comments section.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Barbie.
For 58 years, Barbie has been a conduit to imagination and self-discovery for young girls. After more than 150 inspirational careers, Barbie – along with her friends and family – continues to inspire and encourage the next generation of girls that anything is possible.