[Mabuhay Bitches] This Barbie is More Than a Collectable

With the Barbie (2023) movie smashing box office records, there’s been a few takes in the Asian American social media on the history of the plastic princess. The 11.5 inch fashion doll has sold worldwide and made herself a plastic companion to children around the world. Children can project aspirations, dreams, or silly narratives of childlike imagination on them. After all, “imagination, life is your creation,” sings the 90’s one hit wonder, “Barbie Girl.”

Barbie and the Rockers. Dress so cool we always know the rules!

Like any girl growing up in the 1980s, I grew up playing with Barbies and Barbie adjacent plastic princesses. When I grew from toddler toys to the “big kid” toys, I was excited to finally play with Barbie. I had Magic Movies Barbie, Rose Queen Skipper, Dance Club Barbie, Earring Magic Barbie, Dance Magic Barbie (no relation to Labyrinth…but I could…), and so much more. My room was filled with 11.5′ inch dolls dressed in pink ballgowns and poofy 80’s hair. My favorite is still Perfume Pretty Barbie because she was my “best friend” when I traveled to the Manila for the first time. I could only bring one toy to the Philippines, and I picked the one that smelled the best (and had the most versatile outfit!).

Barbie and the Sensations. Inspired by Back to the Future, this was one of my fav’s!

In the 80’s, we saw that Barbie had a line up with multicultural friends. They would serve as her backup band in the many musical acts she was in – Barbie and the Rockers, Barbie and the Sensations to name a few. I didn’t have any of these because we were very limited on what we could spend on. So, my parents would get me the Barbie of the group, rather than one of her multicultural friends. However, if something was on sale, my dad would pick up something on the way to work if he had a long day at JPL.

Dana of the Rockers. This is when we started seeing more of Barbie’s multicultural friends.

The closest Barbie I had to looking like me was Miko. Miko had a vague Southeast Asian / Pacific Islander kinda vibe to her. She was part of two lines that I can recall – Island Fun and the Tropical line. Both these lines can in the slimmer, “budget boxes” that would retail for less than a standard Barbie. I had the Tropical Miko with the tan skin and textured black hair. I wasn’t into beach like patterns and tropical prints. I was more into ballgowns and fancy soirees. My Barbies looked like they were ready for a Hollywood red carpet affair. When I got Miko, I immediately put her in one of the Jewel Secrets fashions so she can join her new blonde friends in a 1988 Barbie Ferrari. “Get in the car, Miko. There’s a sick rager at the Who Framed Roger Rabbit after party.”

Island Fun Miko. This came in a simple slim box, nothing too fancy.

Tropical Miko

By the mid-90’s, I was supposed to not play with Barbies anymore. It was that time where girls my age would hand down their Barbie collection to their siblings. I was called “childish” by my peers because I refused to let go. I liked rollerblading, but I also felt that I could still enjoy playing with my dolls in the A frame Dream House. I then shifted into the collector market. There was a store at the Westminster Mall called, “Doll It Up.” I was in collector heaven. I would save up my allowance so I could get more of the Classique collection, Gone with the Wind Barbie’s, etc. I even got a gig at the mall playing piano for my dad’s friend’s piano store. The tips would also contribute to my Barbie (and book addict) fund.

Kira on rollerblades!

One day, we went to Doll It Up. I saw that they had a Filipino Barbie. I had the England, Scotland, Japan, and China Barbie’s. I never had a Barbie that represented my culture in the national dress. Sure, Miko could pass for Filipino, but this would be one that I could have to also represent my culture with my other Dolls of the World. “How much?” my dad asked. “$200,” the retail gal told my family. My dad immediately rushed us out of the store. “That’s too expensive!” he said. I bursted into tears. I was always the good girl that understood she couldn’t always have what she wanted. It wasn’t until adulthood I knew why I threw a tantrum at the doll store. To have access to my culture and to allow to have a piece of my culture,

Centennial Filipino Barbie retailed for $200. That’s mid-90’s dollars!

And even then, I wouldn’t have been allowed to take her out of the box for play or even display. Even when I was in my collector phase, I would de-box my dolls so every now and then I can take them out of the glass curio to admire them.

This collector either likes to live dangerously or believes in freedom

In the light of the Barbie movie, I’ve seen Instagram postings that highlight Filipino Barbie’s. I have been out of the collecting universe for some time, but I’ve been slowly getting back into it. Many of these postings while provide a reader’s digest version of the history of both Asian and Filipino Barbie’s, they have been met with comments on where to find and where to buy said Barbie’s.

We had a 2012 Dolls of the World Philippines Barbie, but she’s hard to find on the second hand market. She can go up to $200 last I checked on Amazon.

Take for example, Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz ended up having a 2021 nurse Barbie modeled after her. What these postings don’t tell you that she was a Target exclusive. I did some searching around the collector market to see how much she retails now, but no such luck. While some posts also highlight Anna May Wong in light of AAPI History month, because she’s an (affordable at $30) collectable, most parents won’t allow their children to play with a collector’s item.

Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz is a healthcare professional, works with other Asian American physicians to fight anti-Asian hate….and she’s not available for purchase as of this OpEd.

I have mighty needs! One for me and one for my niece.

However, if I were a parent, I would get two – one to keep for collecting and one for my kid to play with.

Kira and friends in the Sparkle Beach line

However, there is a Filipino Barbie that can be played with. She even comes in “ordinary.” Okay, let’s admit it that whatever we project onto our Barbie’s, that’s what makes them extra ordinary.  Let’s talk about Kira and Lea.

Kira in the All American line.

Barbie and Kira in the Sun Sensation line

The Barbie Fashionista line is essentially ordinary Barbie. Some of these “Tabula Rasa Barbie’s” use the Kira facemold.

Kira somewhat had the same face mold as Miko. Kira was the next AAPI-ish friend of Barbie. Black textured hair and tan skin, she was a goddess! While Kira was one of Barbie’s ethnic friends, she appeared in a lot of swimsuit and beach lines. While doing research for this OpEd, she’s more Beach than Ryan Gosling’s Ken. Don’t get me wrong, Kira is beautiful and that purple swimsuit on the Sun Sensation line speaks to me. However, later lines have included her and her face mold in the generic Fashionista’s line. In 2021, the holiday Barbie also had a Kira face mold giving us an (almost) Filipino Holiday Barbie. (I own one! She’s sitting pretty in my office!)

Cali Girl Lea

Kira and her job is beach?

2021 Holiday Barbie has a tan brunette that uses the Kira facemold.

And while Kira wasn’t listed as canonically Filipino, I want readers of this article to be able to access dolls that their children (or the child inside) can play with and that Filipino Barbie’s aren’t just box dwellers or collectors items.

The Mutya Barbie is one of my dream dolls. However, she goes for $400 on the second hand market.

We also had Lea in the late 90’s and early 00’s with Cali Girl and some short lived lines. We also had Tara Lynn, while ethnically ambiguous, I personally claimed her as AAPI. Kira seemed to be the most consistent AAPI friend of Barbie through the ages. And she is beautiful and deserves to be played with by all children.

Tara Lynn in the Western Stampin’ line. She could pass, but she’s invited to the karaoke party anyway.

Barbie Basics doll with the Lea facemold

There have been Filipino Barbies released in the Philippines celebrating different aspects of Filipino culture. Even then, those can be pricey in the second hand market. I get that not everyone can shell out $60 for a used Isla Filipina Barbie, but if it were up to me, I’d buy one because shelling out the price would be worth it for my kiddos in my life. Also, collecting these Isla Filipina Barbie’s have contributed to childhood healing in seeing that Filipinos are more than just Beach. We stand with Ken in solidarity that we are capable of so many things.

One of the many Isla Filipina Barbie’s released in 2002. I named mine Tala.

Eh…we also had Princess Isla Kokoro in the dancing princesses movie, but her identity is kinda all over, but she’s still cute.

I’m happy that we have so many choices today for dolls. I love my Rainbow High Royal 3 dolls; it’s the closet I can have to K/DA Barbie. My Isla Filipina collection is growing and making their home on my altar as an analogue to honor my ancestors. These dolls are respectively named after Filipino dieties – Hanan, Mayari, and Tala. There’s something empowering about reclaiming childhood and culture by giving these Filipino Barbie’s a second life. I certainly hope that Mattel can continue to have a diverse array of affordable dolls for children and keep us collectors on our toes. After all, Barbies are made to be enjoyed and played with. All children should have a doll they can reasonably afford that represents them – be it a cultural costume or simply being ordinary. And this Kira Rewind Barbie is calling to me!

Tala (Isla Filipina Barbie) sits at my altar where I do all my manifesting because I can do anything

Sun Sensation Kira. 11/10.


Where to Buy Kira

A few dolls from the Fashionista’s line use the Kira facemold. They’re labeled as “Barbie Fashionista” with their corresponding serial number. This is where you can pick up the Barbie’s with the Kira facemold.

Barbie Fashionista 140

Barbie Fashionista 199

Barbie Fashionista (no number)




History of Filipino Barbie

All the Asian Barbies 

Written by Dame Aznable
IG: @damescarletaznable
Twitter: @dameaznable
TikTok: @damescarletaznable

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