Beadwork Artist’s Indigenized Dolls Aim to Bring Diversity, Inclusion to Barbie Culture

The highly anticipated Barbie movie hit theaters this week. But with no Indigenous representation in the movie, audience members might wonder how an Indigenous Barbie might have looked, and Breanna Deis has an answer.

After recognizing a lack of Indigenous representation in the Mattel doll line, Ulkatcho beadwork artist Breanna Deis has taken it upon herself to give her own version of Barbie dolls an Indigenous makeover, with a mission to showcase the diverse appearances of Indigenous people.

“Me being a White/Native person, I don’t have those typical features. And then, Afro-Indigenous people too, who don’t have those features. At the same time, we’re Indigenous. So it’s good to represent everyone and let everyone have a doll that reminds them of themselves,” said Deis.

Through her beadwork and sewing skills, the self-taught artist gives her dolls a complete makeover with modern Indigenous fashion. The dolls come with high-quality Indigenized outfits, typically custom-made ribbon dresses and beaded jewelry to complete the ensemble.

“I think what inspires me is hearing people’s stories. Whether it’s people connecting with the dolls and feeling really special about that, people loving the beadwork or giving it to someone, and it means something special to them.” Deis noted.

The response to her dolls has been overwhelmingly positive, with many Indigenous people spotting a doll that resembles them. As she continues to strive for inclusion, Breanna is taking an extra step to create ribbon skirts to match your doll.

“A lot of people love the Barbie dresses, and they want one for themselves. So, I’ve made one so far for a customer, and then I’ve bought some fabrics. So, we’ll see,” she adds.

If you want to see more of Breanna’s rapidly growing doll collection or would like some beading tutorials, you can check her out on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook @ArtByBreannaDeis.

This initiative is made possible by the Community Radio Fund of Canada

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