NEW YORK -- Fashion doll Barbie turns 30 Monday, but she's showing far fewer signs of age than the generations of little girls who have grown up with her and made her a childhood tradition.
Only Barbie's face has changed since she debuted in 1959 as a haughty, unsmiling fashion model, said Candace Irving, spokeswoman for Barbie's creator, Mattel Toys of Hawthorne, Calif.
She gained a slight smile in 1967 and, 10 years later, a more confident smile, stemming in part from the feminist movement, Irving said. 'It's also the first time you see Barbie's teeth and, yes, they're white and perfect, of course,' she said.
But the leggy blonde hasn't gotten any older, although she doesn't like to reveal her exact age.
'When you talk to children, they usually say she's three years older than they are,' Irving said. 'But we don't give her an age. We like to keep a latitude for what we can develop for her.'
And how does Barbie keep her model's figure and smooth skin after 30 years?
'She's 11 inches of plastic, and she lives right,' Irving said.
Company executives estimate 90 percent of girls ages 4 to 10 have a Barbie doll, Irving said.
'Barbie represents to children the fantasy of what it's going to be like as an adult,' she said. 'They play out all the things they think they'll be doing.'
Mattel provides Barbie with career opportunites, ranging from her first job as a model to clothes and accessories for work as a doctor and even an astronaut.
But it's not all work and no play. Mattel's best-selling version was the 'California Dream' Barbie, complete with Hawaiian print clothes for skateboarding, Irving said.
Company executives denied rumors that Barbie and her boyfriend Ken might get married, even though they've dated for 28 years and her wedding dress is one of her best-selling outfits.
Barbie, originally based on paper dolls that children cut out and dress, did not take the market by storm when she was introduced at the 1959 Toy Fair in New York, company officials said. 'Buyers were hesitant. She was an adult and they weren't sure how children would relate,' Irving said.
But relate they did.
Mattel sold 20 million Barbies, along with pals Ken and Midge, little sister Skipper and other dolls, comprising 40 percent of its business last year, she said.
Since the doll's debut, Barbie's body has been made flexible. Black and Hispanic Barbies were introduced in 1980, although Barbie has had black doll friends since 1968, she said.
This year's Barbies are brought up to date with such styles as crimped hair and neon-colored bathing suits, Irving said.