Beulah Mae Mitchell: Where is The Mattel Employee Now?

‘Black Barbie: A Documentary,’ helmed by filmmaker Lagueria Davis, delves into the history of Black dolls, particularly in connection to Mattel’s iconic Barbie brand, which took 21 years to include a Black eponymous doll into its collection. As such, the narrative presents essential conversations exploring the fundamentals of inclusivity and diverse representation. One element that remains instrumental in the documentary’s unique perspective emerges from writer/director Davis’ aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell, who worked at Mattel for decades and played a key role in the first Black Barbie’s inception. Therefore, the woman’s riveting past must have plucked the viewers’ interest in learning about her present life.

Beulah Mae Mitchell: Decades at Mattel Beside Ruth Handler

Born on May 15, 1938, in Fort Worth, Texas, Beulah Mae Mitchell experienced the contentious racial segregation in America when it was reigning in full force. As a child, at only the age of 13, she used to cook at a white person’s house. During that time, even though she and her mother carried a love for dolls, neither ever had a Black doll of any kind. Nevertheless, their fascination with the toys remained. Consequently, by 1955, Mitchell, who moved to California at 17, ended up applying for a job at Mattel’s assembly line. There, she worked on toys like Jack-in-the-box, specializing in working with rotary equipment as a “Spinner.”

Eventually, Ruth Handler, Mattel’s co-founder, introduced the idea of a Barbie doll, and in 1959, Mitchell became a part of the group of people who worked on the first Barbie line. Handler preferred to build a rapport with the assembly line employees and often asked them for their opinions on certain changes or improvements. As a result, in the early 60s, Mitchell ended up floating the idea of a Black Barbie to the doll’s creator. Thus, Mattel’s first Black fashion doll in the Barbie line, Christie, was created. Even though it wasn’t quite the same as a Black Barbie, central within her own narrative, Christie, Barbie’s friend, certainly paved the path of diversity within the Mattel toy line.

Afterward, Mitchell continued to be a part of Mattel, moving on from an assembly line worker to a receptionist. Therefore, she was around to meet Kitty Black Perkins by the time she joined Mattel as the first Black designer. Perkins went on to design the first Black Barbie in 1980, revolutionizing diversity within the toy industry a couple of decades after Mitchell’s efforts helped in Christie’s origination. A few years later, in 1999, Mitchell, in her 60s, ultimately left Mattel after 44 years of working with the company.

Beulah Mae Mitchell Remained a Doll Enthusiast

Beulah Mae Mitchell’s employment under Mattel, the world’s largest doll brand, only furthered her adoration for them. As such, her family, including niece Lagueria Davis, was used to her bringing them dolls as presents. Yet, in 2011, when Davis moved to Las Angeles to pursue filmmaking, she truly realized the depth of her aunt’s passion for dolls. Mitchell sports an impressive collection of dolls in her house, with boxes upon boxes piled on top of each other. Notably, she holds more Black dolls in her collection than white ones— an instance that wouldn’t have been perceivable in her own childhood.

Naturally, after Davis moved in with Mitchell, the latter regaled her niece with tales of her time at Mattel, working alongside Ruth Handler, Kitty Black Perkins, and Stacey McBride Irby. As such, the young filmmaker—who herself was never interested in dolls—realized the rich history behind Black Barbie and its cultural influence. Consequently, Davis became inspired to learn more about the historical relevance of Black Barbies and create a documentary about them.

“It took having a Black woman in the design and leadership position to get a Black Barbie,” Davis said in a conversation with Shondaland. “That very first doll really is validation that my aunt and Kitty Black Perkins were seen and heard.” Thus, much like the first Black Doll created under Mattel, Mitchell played an instrumental role in the creation of ‘Black Barbie: A Documentary,” which traces back her connection to the doll to bring its history to the screen.

Beulah Mae Mitchell Shares Her Story Through Black Barbie

After Lagueria Davis decided to undertake the ‘Black Barbie: A Documentary’ project, Beulah Mae Mitchell naturally became an integral part of the same. The filmmaker wanted to present the complete narrative of these dolls as cultural touchstones by including the perspectives of Mattel employees, industry experts, and regular people who grew up with the dolls. Therefore, Mitchell’s insight became invaluable to Davis’ project. Furthermore, she remained a helpful link that connected the filmmaker to people at Mattel, including designers who had been the former’s co-workers in the past.

As such, the documentary ended up holding immense significance to Mitchell as well since it chronicles a defining aspect of her life and interests. On September 21, 2018, when Davis debuted the documentary’s sizzle reel on STORY, Mitchell accompanied her niece to the event. The duo received a standing ovation for the project and partook in a Q&A session afterward. Even though Mitchell steers clear of social media platforms of her own, she has recently been a frequent feature on the documentary’s Instagram, Facebook, and X accounts following its Netflix release.

Consequently, fans can catch glimpses of Mitchell at various promotional events and screenings for ‘Black Barbie: A Documentary.’ Nonetheless, outside of the same, she seems to prefer a private life led outside of the public eye. Therefore, as of last known reports, Mitchell continues to reside in her Englewood home in LA, where her extensive collection of dolls, from Barbies to everything else, remain her treasured companions.

Read More: Where is Stacey McBride-Irby Now?