Stacey McBride-Irby: The Barbie Designer is Now a Diversity Consultant

Mattel’s Barbie dolls carry an extensive origin story on their own. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Black Barbies— a doll line that didn’t come into inception until over two decades after the original— chart a rich history themselves. Netflix’s ‘Black Barbie: A Documentary’ undertakes the exploration of the same history, analyzing the cultural and social significance of dolls with a focus on representation and diversity. Therefore, the documentary highlights the women who played instrumental roles in Black Barbie’s inception. One of these women is Stacey McBride-Irby, who worked at Mattel as a designer and created numerous dolls of color as a part of the company’s iconic Barbie line.

Stacey McBride-Irby Created the So In Style Barbie

Stacey McBride Irby was always interested in the fashion world— partly thanks to her fascination with Barbie dolls from a young age. In fact, the designer has often cited Barbie as the inspiration behind her decision to study fashion design in college. “I wanted to be Barbie,” she told Austin American Statesman. “I’m a doll designer because of all of her fashions.” Therefore, it was a defining moment when McBride-Irby landed a job as a designer with Mattel in 1996. Therein, she worked with Kitty Black Perkins, the company’s first Black designer, who had created the first Black Barbie doll in 1980.

Under Perkins’ mentorship, McBride-Irby quickly carved out a space for herself within the company and created many iconic designs, including an exclusive collector doll for AKA Sorority and even a Disney Princess doll. Eventually, she noticed that while she enjoyed Barbies as a kid, her daughter wasn’t as inclined towards the dolls in her own childhood. Consequently, the realization struck that there was a lack of diverse representation within the Barbie line that many young kids were craving.

Therefore, in 2009, McBride-Irby launched Mattel’s So In Style line, which featured a number of African-American dolls and their siblings. Within the documentary, the designer discussed the doll line and said, “I wanted to give the dolls that looked like her, reach girls in my community, and give them dolls that they could relate to.” Even though Mattel has since stopped selling the S.I.S. line, it remains a memorable touchstone in time. Before parting ways with Mattel, McBride-Irby created several other memorable dolls, notably a new Black Barbie in celebration of Perkins’ original’s 30-year-anniversary.

Stacey McBride-Irby Launched Her Own Doll Brand

After working on her So In Style line of Barbie dolls, Stacey McBride-Irby realized she wanted to create further diversity within the industry. As such, after leaving Mattel in 2011, she co-founded the One World Doll Project alongside Trent T. Daniel. The goal of the new company was always to infuse diversity through the addition of cultural and ethnic backgrounds in the Fashion Doll spaces. Thus, in 2013, she created the Prettie Girls! toy line, which featured five dolls from five different backgrounds— African, African-American, Caucasian, Latina, and South Asian— each with a unique backstory.

In the spirit of celebrating diversity and inciting ambition in young kids, the line’s name, Prettie, stands as an acronym for “Positive, Respectful, Enthusiastic, Truthful, Talented, Inspiring, and Excellent.” The dolls in the line sported different interests ranging from cooking and recycling to dedication to spelling bee championships. McBride-Irby discussed the Doll line, saying, “Prettie Girls is so important to me. Our world is so diverse. It teaches girls to have aspirations, to relate through culture.” She added, “Our African-American doll is an overachiever. She dreams of being president one day.” The Prettie Girls! Dolls proved to be a success and hit the shelves of notable stores such as Walmart, ToysRus, and Target, garnering prominent attention.

Where is Stacey McBride-Irby Now?

After the launch of the Prettie Girls! Doll line, where she continues to serve as the Product designer and art director, Stacey McBride-Irby started her own brand, McIrby, in 2018. Under the banner, the designer offers workshops covering a variety of areas. Through the customizable options available, she offers doll design tips, self-care, finances, and career advice in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, McBride-Irby remains an adamant advocate of igniting young girls’ passion and dreams and recognizes the part dolls play in the same. As such, workshops revolving around dealing with bullying stereotypes are also available.

Apart from the same, McBride-Irby also attends events as a speaker, specializing in diversity consultancy. Recently, in 2023, she spoke at an event for a non-profit organization, Little Miss African America, where she shared her story through a poem titled “A Barbie Girls Dream.” Recently, the designer has also been involved in publicity for ‘Black Barbie: A Documentary,’ a Netflix film in which she appeared to discuss her professional and personal ties to Barbie.

As such, McBride-Irby spent Juneteenth this year at a Black Barbie-themed celebration with others who collaborated with Lagueria Davis on her documentary, including her mentor Perkins. While McBride-Irby remains active on social media across different platforms, including Instagram and X, the former Barbie designer prefers sharing snippets from her professional undertakings over her personal life. Therefore, little is known about her husband and two daughters. Yet, fans can often find tidbits of her life across her social media feed, such as her family’s 2019 Thanksgiving, spent with the designer’s mother, as well as McBride-Irby’s more recent 50th birthday celebration.

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