Grace and Courtney

Mattel just unveiled its newest collection of Barbies: the So in Style (S.I.S.) collection. Created by an African-American designer, the dolls are meant to be more culturally relevant to young multi-ethnic girls in their fashions, facial features and hairstyles with inspiring hobbies.

"I want them to be examples to real girls," says Mattel designer Stacey McBride-Irby.

The dolls come in pairs with a big and little sister to encourage mentoring relationships. While we applaud the cute dolls - Grace and Courtney, Kara and Kiana and Trichelle and Janessa - most still look like a darker shade of Barbie. Only one of the three adult dolls, Kara, has natural hair, while the other two sport long, stick-straight 'dos. And out of the three little sisters, only one has a textured style - afro puffs - while the rest have straighter styles.

Trichelle and Janessa

Barbie has come along way since she first was conceived 50 years ago by Ruth Handler, who founded Mattel in 1944 with husband, Elliot and Harold "Matt" Matson. Handler was bucking a post-World War II trend of paper dolls and baby dolls by creating a fashion doll, whcih she named after her daughter, Barbara.

The early Barbie's measurements were unattainable. In 1989, a Barbie Liberation Organization was formed by a group of activists who objected to Barbie's unrealistic figure and her superficial consumerism.

And Barbie definitely lacked ethnicity, even when they were meant to be black or Hispanic. The company simply took the Barbie mold and hair and gave the doll darker skin.

The new dolls are a definite improvement over Mattel's previous attempts. But they still fall slightly short, falling back on what is more socially acceptable and reinforcing old standards of beauty that have changed dramatically as our society becomes more multicultural.

Kara and Kiana

The dolls have gotten mixed reviews from the African-American community.

"The S.I.S. dolls are just another example of how America loves to see American-Americans: as white as possible," says About-face.com. "Of course many black women do have hair like this, but most don't grow it that way naturally. There are six different dolls - why not six different kinds of hair? To me, this lack of representation just reaffirms the notion that 'nappy' or 'kinky' hair is bad, while promoting long, sleek hair as the most (or only) beautiful option."

Blogger Raven Hill writes on Jezebel.com: "Hair can be a complicated subject for black women, and it would be sad for any little girl to feel as if her texture wasn't desirable or represented."