Beekeeper Barbie, Pet Photographer Barbie and Sign Language Barbie. MIDDLE ROW FROM LEFT: President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie and Avon Representative Barbie. BOTTOM ROW FROM LEFT: Chef Barbie, Baseball Player Barbie and Doctor Barbie. MUST CREDIT:
Beekeeper Barbie, Pet Photographer Barbie and Sign Language Barbie. MIDDLE ROW FROM LEFT: President Barbie, Astronaut Barbie and Avon Representative Barbie. BOTTOM ROW FROM LEFT: Chef Barbie, Baseball Player Barbie and Doctor Barbie. Image Credit: The Washington Post by Elizabeth Renstrom

With the release of the "Barbie" movie, the American doll's hot-pink empire has reached a whole new level. "Barbiemania" is sweeping much of the world, influencing clothing styles, makeup products and even the food industry.

Given the hype, you might be forgiven for thinking that the toy launched by Mattel in 1959 is the only doll to ever exist. But while many consider Barbie to be the doll of all dolls, many others came after her - often marketed as more relatable or representative alternatives to Barbie, and gaining die-hard fans along the way.

A family visits a Barbie-themed restaurant in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Friday, July 21, 2023.
A family visits a Barbie-themed restaurant in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Image Credit: AP

Here's a look at some of the non-Barbies - and how they fared compared with Mattel's prize doll.


In 1963, four years after Barbie's launch, British company Pedigree Toys introduced Sindy.

With her fuller figure, round face, side-glancing eyes and casual attire, Sindy was presented as the relatable girl-next-door. "Sindy is more than a doll, she is a real personality. The . . . grown-up girl who lives her own life and dresses the way she really likes," the original advertisement reads.

For many Brits, Sindy's authenticity was a large part of her appeal, said Christina Paul, editor of the members magazine for the Doll Club of Great Britain, in an interview. "She was the girl next door, someone I could identify with," Paul said. "She wasn't haughty and glamorous like Barbie."

Sindy was not intentionally designed as a rival to Barbie, Matthew Reynolds, managing director of Pedigree Toys and Brands, said in an interview. However, media outlets have been keen to pit the two dolls against each other, with the Times newspaper labeling Sindy "the brave British anti-Barbie."

A screen grab shows Matthew Keith's collection of Barbie dolls during an interview with Reuters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 21, 2023.
A screen grab shows Matthew Keith's collection of Barbie dolls during an interview with Reuters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 21, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS TV/via REUTERS

Mattel also launched lawsuits targeting Sindy dolls in the early 1990s, alleging that the facial features on the latest version of the doll were too similar to Barbie's. Eventually Mattel and Hasbro, which had bought rights to Sindy at the time, reached an agreement, and Sindy's face was changed.

Controversies aside, Sindy dolls were beloved by many, particularly in the United Kingdom, where they commanded 80 percent of the fashion doll market in 1985, according to a 2012 report by the BBC.

"Sindy is Barbie's biggest rival, no doubt about it," Reynolds said. "She is the first doll talked about after Barbie."

Reynolds noted that while Sindy had reached overseas markets, the brand never managed to crack the United States. About 150 million Sindy dolls have been sold worldwide to date, but that pales in comparison to Barbie, where more than 100 dolls are sold every minute, according to Mattel.

Queens of Africa Dolls

The Barbie brand - and the doll industry more generally - has long been criticized for lacking diversity.

Taofick Okoya, a Nigerian entrepreneur, founded the Queens of Africa brand of fashion dolls in 2010, a line of dolls that represent different tribes and can be purchased with various hair types and styles, including braids and Afros. Hs said a turning point for him was when his eldest child, who had long been showered with fair-skinned dolls to play with, said she "wished she was White."

The Queens of Africa dolls faced challenges when they hit shelves in Nigeria, as critics and even some children made the same statement, "we don't need Black dolls" - a mind-set that took awhile to change, Okoya said in a phone interview.

Eventually, he said, due to local marketing and an affordable price point cheaper than other foreign dolls, sales began to climb. At one point, media reports suggested that the brand was outselling Barbie dolls in Nigeria.

Mattel created Christie, Barbie's first Black friend, in 1969, and introduced a Black version of Barbie in 1980. Nonetheless, the Barbie brand is still strongly associated with the blond-haired, blue-eyed version of Barbie, and Okoya thinks that Queens of Africa was "ahead of the game" when it came to diversification in the doll landscape.

Lottie Dolls

One brand that isn't shy about marketing itself as a rival to Barbie is the Lottie Doll. The doll's website specifically describes Lottie as "an alternative to Barbie."

"We chose to base Lottie on a nine year old, a prepubescent child which allows us to focus on childhood and not have to directly deal with sexualisation or sexual identity," co-founder Ian Harkin said in an email. "We want kids to be kids and they can wear whatever they want or be whoever they want to be."

Arklu, the company that makes Lottie Dolls, notes that, unlike Barbie, who generally has permanently arched feet, Lottie is able to stand upright without assistance. "Getting that weighting and rigidity was important to us, it may seem minor but it took us quite a bit of time, to us it was a subliminal empowerment message," Harkin wrote in a 2021 blog post titled "The Story of Lottie Dolls."

Arklu, based in Ireland, says it has sold more than 1 million of the dolls - although Harkin says surviving in the "ruthless" toy industry landscape has been a challenge.

Nonetheless, he says he thinks the company has accomplished its goal of creating a more positive doll for children to play with - particularly given a 2021 study suggesting that playing with dolls with realistic childlike body shapes, including Lottie, was better for promoting body satisfaction in young girls.

Barbie's manufacturer has also revisited the idea of body image over the years, launching in 2016 the "Fashionistas" line of dolls available in curvy, petite and tall forms to much positive media attention. "It can be demotivating seeing the market leader get all of the credit for change," Harkin said.

Bratz Dolls

One of the brands considered the biggest threat to Barbie's empire was Bratz, which was hugely popular in the 2000s. Marketed as an edgier, more street-smart version of Barbie, it was the top-selling fashion doll during some periods.

The four original Bratz dolls - Yasmin, Cloe, Jade and Sasha - had strikingly pouty lips and large eyes, and, according to the Guardian, brought in $1 billion in annual revenue at the height of their popularity.

A Bratz doll.
A Bratz doll. Image Credit: Washington Post

The popularity of Bratz dolls in the early 2000s was linked to a decline in Barbie sales, with Mattel, in one of its long-running legal battles against maker MGA Entertainment, saying that the creation of Bratz had led to Barbie losing more than $300 million in profit. (Barbie sales have been resurgent in recent years, and experts predict that the release of the "Barbie" movie will likely fuel further sales.)

But Bratz has had an enduring impact on Barbie, and some fans speculated that Greta Gerwig's film, released Friday, had included a Bratz reference. In recent days, some fans professed their loyalty to Bratz, even as they admitted they'd still watch the "Barbie" film.

Gymnastics star Simone Biles was among those declaring their love for the alternative dolls, writing on Meta's new social media app, Threads: "I was never really a barbie girl, always a bratz girl."

"Isn't it about time we acknowledge the superior doll?" Melanie Curry, an assistant editor at Cosmopolitan, wrote. "Bratz just felt more mature and fun and cool."

Sameer Hosany, professor of marketing at Royal Holloway University of London, said in an email: "While most toys remain popular for only two to three years, Barbie's long-term success reflects Mattel responsiveness and adaptability to the changing cultural and political discourse in society."

Mattel has adopted various strategies to continually revitalize Barbie dolls, Hosany said, from introducing additional characters with storylines like boyfriend Ken and sister Skipper, launching the "Fashionistas" line with different body types, and drawing on "a strong sense of nostalgia" from generations that "grew up playing with the doll."

And the many controversies around the Barbie doll's image may have helped her stay relevant, Hosany said: "The many criticisms of Barbie such as being accused of promoting unrealistic body standards, stereotyping and objectification of women among others have perhaps kept the Barbie brand at the helm of cultural and sociological discourse."