Avril O’Reilly’s Barbies

Avril O’Reilly.

“I grew up in County Cork. I had Sindy dolls and Anna and Happytime dolls, with horses. In secondary school I kept my dolls secret as many people did. The Barbie movie brought many collectors out of the closet! 

Many collectors collect the doll that they did not have as children. As a child I always has ONE Sindy at a time. Nowadays some children have many.

I developed an interest in the art of black hair while working in London in the 90s. Living close to Brixton, I was fascinated by the idea of hair as an expression of identity.  As well as doing street photography of hairstyles, I worked with local hairdressers to do Barbie’s hair, using black dolls as models.  

My books “A Fairy in the Family” and “A Fairy in the Family Again” * were inspired by the children in my neighbourhood. The books answered a need for diversity and representation of black children in Children’s Literature.  My child models made hair choices that schools and workplaces did not always allow.

Toys represent children too.  When small children like a doll, they often say ‘They are me!’ Barbie has always striven to be inclusive and diverse. My private collection of dolls reflects my interest in the changing art and politics of black hair.  

For the “Who’s That?” display at the Museum of Childhood Ireland, I’ve displayed a mixture of play and designer dolls. 

So, Who’s That?  Do you see you?!

Links to Avril’s books

A Fairy in the Family:


and a Fairy in the Family Again:

We’d love to hear your Barbie story

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