Ballerina Misty Copeland was the inspiration for the Damsels this April. Maddie selected Misty because ballet is also her passion. The girls prepared for the meeting by reading an article about Misty breaking barriers as well as watching a video about the Barbie doll created in her likeness. Some of the Damsels also read the Young Readers version of Misty Copeland’s book Life in Motion.
They kicked off the meeting with an icebreaker and mini-action tied into one. By creating self-portraits, they became part of the Facing Differences Challenge:
- By joining the Challenge, young people will create a meaningful self-portrait that reflects their sense of identity. Each portrait submitted generates funding from the Bezos Family Foundation—up to $600,000—to support programs run by CARE and Search for Common Ground, helping youth on different sides of conflict build peace.
After the self-portraits, they sat down to dinner and discussion. One of the dishes (delicious sweet potato fries) was prepared using a recipe from Misty’s book The Ballerina Body. The group had a visiting guest, so they went around the table introducing themselves and sharing their passions. Next, they watched a short video about Misty while sharing dessert.
After the video, Maddie asked the group talk more about their passion and explain what they enjoy about it. Here are a few of the great replies: “Reading because when I read it feels like I am going somewhere.”, “Soccer because when I’m running, nobody can stop me. Until the goalie.”, “Ballet, because I feel free with no worries and my thoughts stop.”, “Drawing because you can see something and put it on paper to make it your own”. Next, Maddie asked what challenges they faced in pursuing their passions. Here are some replies: “My height in ballet since the parts of children are for shorter kids.”; “My shoulders are too close and push-ups are hard for me. I have to do 100 push-ups to earn my black belt.”; “My dance class levels are organized by birthday, so I’m always the oldest and can’t move up even if I’m ready.”.
Next, Maddie asked some questions specifically about Barbie dolls. Many of the Damsels had played with them when they were younger and Maddie wondered if they influenced the girls. Most said that they really liked making houses for them and getting stuff for their Barbies. They agreed that everything is perfect in the Dreamhouse and that in real life not everything can be perfect. When asked which other dolls they would like to see Mattel create, they listed: Hillary Clinton, Malala, Ada Lovelace and Billie Jean King among others.
Then, Maddie busted out the dolls. They compared a regular Barbie, a Misty Copeland Barbie, a Curvy Barbie and an American Girl doll. Here are some of their observations: “The American Girl doll is younger, Barbie has colder features,”; “When I play with Barbies she is an adult, when I play with American Girl dolls she is a kid.”; “They bend differently and the make up is different.”; “Misty’s doll is more muscular.”; “They have different skin tones.”.
Finally, it was time to decide on an action. The Damsels suggested designing a Barbie, scheduling a dance performance, writing letters to Mattel and recommending dolls to make, making felt dolls of inspirational women, donating to the Boys and Girls Clubs and designing dolls of themselves. After a vote, the girls decided to write letters to Mattel suggesting new Barbies that they would like to see (note to Mattel – we need a Temple Grandin Barbie doll). Some also wrote letters directly to Misty Copeland to let her know how she inspired them. It was a jam packed evening and the Damsels finished their action before heading home.