Bessie Coleman was the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license. | Source: Mattel

Bessie Coleman is the latest entry in Barbie’s Inspiring Women Series, a collection of dolls based on historical heroines who have paved the way for generations of women to fulfill their dreams.

“Brave Bessie” Coleman left her home of Atlanta, Texas at the age of 23 to move to Chicago and pursue an education. She wanted to get a pilot’s license, but she was unable to do so because she was a woman of color. However, “Queen Bess” wouldn’t let this gender and racial discrimination drag her down. She learned French and moved to France, where she was able to become the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license in 1921. Coleman was also the first Black and Native American female aviator. She would go on to perform at many airshows, thrilling audiences with her aerial stunts.

Her outfit is inspired by what pilots wore in the 1920s. | Source: Mattel

Mattel’s new Barbie doll launched on Jan. 9 with Coleman in a traditional olive-green flight suit with tall lace-up boots and a hat emblazoned with her initials and a golden eagle insignia.

As part of the launch, Barbie is partnering with Bessie Coleman Aviation all-Stars — a not-for-profit organization founded by Bessie’s great-niece, Gigi Coleman — to introduce students to careers in aviation and teach them about historical and cultural aviation figures. Gigi Coleman will participate in a Barbie Branded Virtual Salon event with Gigi Coleman, Bessie Coleman’s great-niece on Friday, Feb. 3. Barbie also partnering with Girls Write Now and giving a Barbie Dream Gap Project donation to help supply writing and publishing programs, and teaming up with American Airlines for a flight operated by an all-Black female flight crew on Jan. 26, Bessie’s birthday.

Related: World of EPI Sets the Stage for More Diverse Dolls in 2023

The Barbie Inspiring Women Series features a variety of accomplished women such as Ida B. Wells, Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. Jane Goodall, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Billie Jean King, Ella Fitzgerald, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, and Madam C.J. Walker. This inspirational collectible doll is available for $35 at Target, Entertainment Earth, and Mattel Creations with shipping set for April.

About the author

Maggie Dougherty

Maggie Dougherty

Maggie Dougherty is an editorial intern at Adventure Media & Events. She is a senior at Iona University in New Rochelle, New York, where she studies digital media and production. In her free time, Maggie can be found watching Conan O’Brien videos on YouTube, reading biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson, or listening to the Succession soundtrack.