Hope Barbie Plays a New Role

Posted on 20 January 2012

web Wendy Tarlow 1-16-12_9394

By Emily J Weitz

Last week, 40,000 people liked “Bald and Beautiful Barbie” on Facebook. This week, it was up to 120,000. The social network giant has become a mechanism for grassroots change of all sorts, and this time it’s a movement to help children fighting cancer maintain a sense of pride.

Barbie’s flowing golden tresses may be one of her most obvious characteristics, but without them, she’s still Barbie. That’s what Wendy Tarlow, Sag Harbor resident, cancer fighter and administrator of the Facebook-page-gone-viral hopes.

The story of the bald Barbie began when the CEO of Mattel, Inc., the manufacturer of the 53-year-old iconic doll, had one bald Barbie made for a friend’s little girl, Genesis Reyes, a 4-year-old cancer patient on Long Island. Word of the story sparked Jane Bingham, a cancer patient from New Jersey, and Beckie Sypin, the California mother of a cancer patient, to create a Facebook page to try to get the doll made.

“I heard about it on Cancer Chicks, one of my Facebook groups,” says Tarlow. “I liked it and shared it and I saw they just weren’t getting very far. They had, maybe 40 ‘likes,’ so I asked if they wanted help.”

Tarlow, who has a background in fundraising and recently helped raise over $10,000 for Swim Across America for cancer research, has started tapping into other Facebook groups, particularly cancer pages for kids. News organizations across the country are reporting on Bald and Beautiful Barbie, and Mattel, said Tarlow, is under a lot of pressure to make this doll.

“You look at Mattel’s Facebook page now,” said Tarlow, “and it’s pages and pages of requests for this.” Posts like “Dear Mattel, Please consider making three bald Barbies named Hope, Faith and Charity…” to “Dear Mattel, If you don’t make a doll with no hair I’m sure some other company will. It would be dumb not to…” fill the responses on the company’s wall.

Facebook has been helpful for Tarlow since her own battle with cancer began.

“I used to think Facebook was ridiculous,” she says. “But when I was in and out of treatment, I was sick so much of the time and felt so alone, Facebook made me feel connected. There was only so much my family could hear. Most people dealing with cancer feel that family and friends don’t understand. They want to hear you’re doing well, not the bad news… Facebook connected me to other sources of support.”

In fact it was where she met and became friends with Bingham on the Cancer Chicks page. So it made sense that she went down that same avenue to reach out and raise awareness for this cause.

The first bald Barbie was made when little Genesis confessed that she “didn’t feel like a princess anymore,” according to Tarlow.

“What better way to make a child feel like a princess than to make a Barbie doll that looks like her,” she asked.

According to reports in media such as the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC, Mattel, Inc. is non-committal about actually producing a bald Barbie.

“Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll,” Mattel told the Times. “As you might imagine, we receive hundreds of passionate requests for various dolls to be added to our collection. We take all of them seriously and are constantly exploring new and different dolls to be added to our line.”

Since the Bald and Beautiful Barbie campaign launched, a movement for a Bald GI Joe began as well, also organized by the women. Its manufacturer, Hasbro, has responded positively, claimed Tarlow, who said most of her time is now spent boosting that page’s viewership, although no promises have been made.

“I think just the fact that people have jumped on this bandwagon creates solidarity,” she said.

That solidarity, and that gathering behind a cause, has given Tarlow strength in the years since she was first diagnosed.

“It’s a f—— hard road,” she says. “But raising money gives me a sense of hope.”

She recalled when she was honored last year for her extraordinary contributions to Swim Across America.

“When I was brought up onstage and given a plaque along with another guy going through this, we hugged and cried,” she said.

The hope is that, if and when the Bald Barbie is made, proceeds will go to research children’s cancers.

“Mattel did a breast cancer Barbie two years ago,” Tarlow said. “That pink ribbon has raised enough money that they have found cures and treatments. But kids’ cancer is underfunded.”

According to the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer every day in this country. Cancer is still the number one disease killer of children.

“It’s time to get this doll made,” says Tarlow.

As she rallies behind the cause, Tarlow can’t help but think of Katy Stewart, the young Sag Harbor resident who lost her battle with cancer last year.

“I think of Katy, and all the supporters in this community,” she said. “If this doll was made when she was alive to see it, I would have been the first to go and give it to her.”

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27 Responses to “Hope Barbie Plays a New Role”

  1. Wendy Tarlow says:

    Thank you for the great article and support!

  2. Ted Buckley says:

    Well written article. Thank you for your interest and support.

  3. Cheryl mcmahon says:

    I love it. As a ten year ovarian cancer patient/survivor I think it would be such a wonderful idea. My daughter was only 2 and then again 7 when I lost all my hair do to chemo and she would have been able to identify so much more if her beloved Barbie looked a little more like her mommy did. Thank you for the article.

  4. Julie says:

    Why would Mattel not just make this already??? If they dont I will!!!!

  5. Tressa says:

    this is an awesome article. very nicely written.

  6. Cerise Shepherd says:

    So many familys will benefit from this Barbie, for the sole fact that baldness is beautiful and not everyone has to have hair to be Beautiful. After all what makes a person? Their hair? No. Their being? Yes! Mattel should make the Barbie. A lot of us in this world have known some one with cancer, it is a hard path. I belive that if this doll were made it would help others relize that BALD IS BEAUTIFUL. So Please Mattel Make more dolls! We thank you for making the one for Genesis Reyes and ask that you make more for the all the children of hairloss diseases.

    Cerise Shepherd

  7. Patrice Dalton says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I am glad more people will learn about our neighbor Wendy. She is an amazing individual who demonstrates courage, resilience and compassion in her many charitable endeavors.

  8. jessica says:

    this movement brings tears to my eyes, my friends,family , and myself are all in full support ofthis movement and we hope to see this doll made soon. Some of us are planning on boycotting mattel if it is not made…thank u for trying to bring happiness and hope to all of thosebeautiful children.

  9. Grandma Genny says:

    I am a Grandma and don`t have cancer but some of my friends Children do . I pray that Mattel will open the doors and put barbie and G.I Joe bald out there if they do i will buy them for my Grandchildren I have 14 Grandchildren . I have been Blessed very much so !!! God Bless Beautiful Bald Barbie and Bald G.I. Joe !!! Thanks Mattel Grandma Genny

  10. Elvia says:

    Great & well written article. Cudos for Wendy. I do too understand, I have lost my hair twice during my leukemia treatment . It was hard for my family and my friend’s kids. Children’s need this for their morale. Keep doing a great job, Wendy!

  11. Alyse Cook says:

    Great article! Very well written! And great job Wendy.. <3 ya! Mattel please make this Barbie!

  12. J Chang says:

    My 3 year old daughter is bald due to Alopecia! I am so thankful for someone being so proactive about getting a Barbie made to look just like her and all the other beautiful bald women in the world! THANK YOU!

  13. Jennifer M says:

    Wendy you are an amazing person! keep up the great work! I love seeing this sort of stuff from people doing such wonderful things!

  14. Judith Cook Tucker says:

    Wendy, I am so moved by your spunk and devotion, and your ability to make things happen to benefit others. I didn’t realize you were helping to get the word out about this important idea. If I didn’t already love you because you are my niece and I know your heart and soul is that of a true warrior, I would love you for all that you give as you champion others. You rock! Mattel needs to make this doll and show their support for the young warriors who are facing things no child should have to face alone. Playing with toys can be so therapeutic for a child…imagine a bald little girl playing with a bald Barbie…How can a company not see the need for that, and even see it as a good business decision?!

  15. Courtney Rasey says:

    Wonderful article! I am very happy that this movement is focusing attention on childhood cancer. It is an important topic as, for many pediatric cancers, there is still so much research that needs to be done to figure out what is causing it, how can we prevent it, how can we better treat it (that doesn’t cause so many more issues down the road if the child survives), and how can we cure it. We also need better awareness in the medical community of the symptoms for quicker diagnosis so treatment can begin. This needs attention – awareness = funding for research = cure.

  16. sookie13 says:

    I’m the opposing view. I don’t want to buy a product that uses cancer as a marketing tool. Companies exist to make money, so if they make a bald Barbie, it will be because they think they can make money off of it. And, they will not only be using cancer as a marketing tool, they will be using PEDIATRIC cancer as a marketing tool. I think that’s really a horrible idea. A toy company shouldn’t use pediatric cancer as a marketing tool. Even though I understand a bald Barbie might make a child feel better, I think I might have to boycott a company so callous as to ever use pediatric cancer as a marketing tool. It shouldn’t be done. They shouldn’t do it. I’m not opposed to Bald Barbie, but I’m so very opposed to a toy company using pediatric cancer as a marketing tool.

    I would prefer that Mattel just give money to a charity that is working on a cure for cancer. Even now, if everyone who likes that facebook page would donate $20 to a charity of their choice, how amazing would that be? You can wait a few years and spend $20 on a bald Barbie, or give $20 to a charity working on a cure right now. Just donate now. If you still want a bald Barbie, wait a year and buy it when it comes out, if it comes out. But, donate now. That’s $2 million for research! And, so many of these people on the facebook page say they would buy this Barbie, so they have the money to donate, right?

    But, seriously, if I ever see a gold ribbon for pediatric cancer on a toy package, that means the toy company is using childhood cancer to market their product, and I just can’t fathom a world in which that will ever be OK.

  17. Sarah Alward says:

    Wendy! Terrific article! You are such an amazing inspiration. You are like a firecracker – once you are lit up you just don’t stop! Keep up the hard work and pressure and let’s all hope it pays off. We support you and your cause 150%.

    I have to disagree respectfully with sookie13 – this is all about how you see it . . . you can look at it as a company trying to capitalize on childhood cancer (glass half empty), OR you can look at it as a company trying to provide support, inspiration and love to the zillions of sweet children who undergo round after round of chemo to save their lives, as well as the children with hair loss disorders. They deserve to see their image in the mainstream too, and also deserve to feel that they are beautiful.

    Way to go Wendy!

  18. Wendy Tarlow says:

    Thank you for all of the positivity. And I have learned in life that it is much better looking at the glass half full… For sure!

  19. Julie Stark says:

    Proud of you Wendy.
    Never cease to amaze me.
    Anything I can do to help, let me know.
    Keep it up.
    Ps, smile with teeth, you have great teeth! Lol.

  20. DIana says:

    Way to go, Wendy…..what a fabulous idea!!
    AKA: Dr. Sarah’s Mom

  21. Susan Ross says:

    I am a children’s author. I have written a manuscript for a picture book about a child’s loss of hair due to chemo. It is called Emma the Mouse Brings Joy to the House. I wrote it to offer comfort and hope to children losing their hair, and to make dealing with a loved one suffering from hair loss less intimidating for children. The book is primarily funny and upbeat with a brief, simplified explanation of the symptoms of leukemia, diagnosis and treatment interspersed in the story. In the beginning of the story Emma the mouse wants hair just like Sydney’s. She comes up with imaginative ways to solve her dilemma. When Sydney gets sick and loses her hair, Emma helps Sydney cope with the lose in her usual creative way.
    I am looking for people with children dealing with hair loss personally or who know someone dealing with this side effect, as well as people involved in paediatric oncology, to offer me feedback on my story to ensure it will bring a smile to a child before I publish it in late spring. This will be my fifth picture book.
    Please go to http://www.susanross.blog.com for more information.
    Susan Ross

  22. Crystal says:

    Hi, and I want to know who gave you the right to post the names of 2 of our 2 of our cancer barbies. We invented Hope, and Faith and Serenity. Which you change the 3rd one to charity. please stop stealing our ideas that we have worked hard on for 2 yrs now for this dream and vision of helping little girls battling cancer feel beautiful and help with the proceeds going to St Judes. We do have a lawyer and a toy designer that has patented our idea since last yr …. i know that others seen our facebook post of our idea of the bald and beautiful barbie. and i should of never done that if i knew half the world was going to try and claim credit for our idea.


  23. Bob Fisher says:

    What a pleasure to read such an uplifting article that shows how one person’s effort can have such meaningful results for so many. Well done Wendy.

  24. Wendy Tarlow says:

    GREAT NEWS!!! MGA Entertainment has been in contact with us. (They make Moxie dolls and Bratz dolls) We just got word. They are stepping up to the plate and WILL be making a Bald Doll! They will be issuing a press release soon with all the details! I am hoping she will be in their Moxie doll line! Our voices have been heard, maybe not by Mattel but by MGA Entertainment. The Admins http://www.facebook.com/BeautifulandBaldBarbie


  26. Luevano says:

    I think its an awesome idea but make a hope and faith perhaps a boy Barbie named Isaiah in remberance of his battle of cancer at st Jude children’s hospital of tn.. 5/25/06 – 4/1/11 the strongest boy I’ve ever knew..

  27. Barb says:

    Lost both natural breast in 1984. To me, it is about time. Now if only I could aford one

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