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I'm a Saudi girl in a Barbie world: Jeddah chef becomes immortalised as doll Open in fullscreen

Ruqaiya Haris

I'm a Saudi girl in a Barbie world: Jeddah chef becomes immortalised as doll

Louloua el-Ezzah with her Barbie doll [Twitter]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2019

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Saudi chef Louloua el-Ezzah is now the first Saudi woman to be turned into a Barbie doll.

Professional chef Louloua El-Ezzah has become the first Saudi woman to be represented in the form of a Barbie doll, as multinational toy company Mattel celebrates Barbie’s 60th anniversary this year. 

Based in Jeddah, el-Ezzah runs a culinary school called ‘Loulou’s Kitchen’ where she gives cooking classes, teaching people how to cook a variety of different cuisines, from Italian to Japanese.

She told local news media that she was selected from among three Saudi women candidates. “I was really happy to have joined the Mattel Barbie list of inspiring women,” she said, describing the opportunity as “invaluable”.

The mother-of-three began cooking at home before becoming a professional chef and rose to fame after appearing on reality television show ‘Top Chef Middle East’ in 2011. Speaking to Arab News last year, she said “I really wanted more girls to know about this field as a career option. I wanted to convince more women to get into this, and that pushed me to continue what I was doing.”

By the grace of God, I became the first Saudi woman to be represented by the world-famous Barbie doll

 

Barbie's makers recently released their ‘Role Models’ collection which saw women from all walks of life being represented as dolls; from wildlife conservationist Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin, to Muslim fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad - complete with a fencing sword and white hijab.

Earlier this year Barbie also created a joint product line with National Geographic featuring dolls showcasing underrepresented careers such as a polar marine biologist and an astrophysicist, complete with relevant accessories. 

Despite efforts to create dolls that speak to the intellectual aspirations of young women, the Barbie doll makers have been targeted with intense criticism over the years mainly from feminists who claim that Barbie is an inherently sexualised doll, with her disproportionate curves and unrealistic figure.

Research suggests that playing with Barbie encourages girls to place a greater focus on their looks, even when the doll is wearing the uniform of a STEM researcher. 

However, the ‘Role Model’ dolls which claim to empower young girls to pursue their passions may be a welcome contribution in Saudi Arabia.

There, women are enjoying new freedoms following a recent liberalisation drive in the conservative Kingdom which saw mixed-gender music concerts and women finally being allowed to travel without a male companion, although critics say the reforms do not go far enough and draw attention to the authorities' continued detention of women's rights activists. 

In an Instagram post showing a clip of a Marie Claire Arabia video about the Barbie collaboration, el-Ezzah wrote “by the grace of God, I became the first Saudi woman to be represented by the world-famous Barbie doll to set an example and an inspiration for anyone who has a dream to achieve”. 

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