"Barbie" Missed a Huge Opportunity by Not Including Teresa, Barbie's Latina BFF

Photo Illustration: Ava Cruz
Photo Illustration: Ava Cruz
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I took my 7-year-old daughter to see the "Barbie" movie the day it came out. Growing up, I was obsessed with Barbie. I played with Barbie dolls well into my early teen years and had hundreds of them. My daughter is also a huge fan. And while at some point in my life I developed an awareness that some people take issue with Barbie's blondness, her unrealistic proportions, and the beauty standards she perpetuates, she's always been so much more than that to me.

In my imaginary world, Barbie and all of her friends could be anything I wanted them to be. The dolls allowed me to live out my own fantasies for my future and explore all the dreams I had. Once I got my first Teresa doll, there were truly no limits. As Barbie's Latina bestie, she represented something I I closely identified with as a girl of Puerto Rican descent living in the States.

"When I played with Teresa, she could actually be me."

Yes, Teresa had straight hair and a slim figure, but her complexion was brown, just like mine, and her name was distinctly a fully Spanish name — Teresa Rivera. My mom, also a lifelong Barbie stan, was so proud to present me with my very own Teresa, being sure to roll her "R" when she told me her name. When I played with Teresa, she could actually be me; and with that, I could actually be anything I wanted to be.

In anticipation of Greta Gerwig's "Barbie," starring Margot Robbie and America Ferrera, I wondered if Teresa would make an appearance. I was going to see the movie either way, but unfortunately, Teresa was not featured — a huge missed opportunity. Ferrera as working mom Gloria nearly overshadowed Robbie, delivering an epic speech that not only circulated throughout social media but will go down as some of the best and most empowering lines to be said in a film. But I still felt Teresa's absence.

Barbie movie prop
The author's 7-year-old daughter. Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

In reality, Teresa is an even more important addition to the Barbie lineup than Allan, who was one of the only non-Barbie and non-Ken characters in the film. The first Teresa doll was released in 1988 as a Latina teenager known to be something of a "tech genius." Yes, you read that right. All the way back in the '80s, someone at Mattel actually decided to make a Latina doll who was smart, driven, and a loyal best friend to Barbie. Teresa is an empowered Latina character who would have made an ideal addition to Gerwig's "Barbie," which is all about women's rights, women supporting women, and women asserting ourselves in a world that seems desperate to hold onto the patriarchy.

"We can only hope that Gerwig hears us Latinas."

My daughter knows Teresa as an entrepreneur who works alongside Barbie, thanks to one of her favorite books about the duo. She also knows her as a mermaid, thanks to one of her favorite dolls, and she knows her as an unapologetic Latina — thanks to her mom. But she didn't get to see her in the "Barbie" movie. Yes, the relationship depicted between Ferrera's character and her daughter, Sasha (played by Ariana Greenblatt, who is of Puerto Rican descent), was moving, and it made our experience watching the film together even more powerful. We were thrilled to see Barbies of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in the film. But still, we missed our girl Teresa. We can only hope that Gerwig hears us Latinas, and if there's ever a sequel to the "Barbie" movie, Teresa should not only make an appearance — she should have a significant role.

Teresa was introduced over 30 years ago, and she's still the only enduring American Latina doll in the Barbie universe. Latines make up nearly 20 percent of the US population, so it's about time for the real-life Mattel to step up. We want to see a full range of Latina Barbies. I want my little girl to play with an Afro-Latina Barbie with gorgeous curly hair that looks just like hers.

Barbie movie
The author's daughter. Shayne Rodriguez Thompson

All little girls should get to play with Barbies branded with distinctly Latina names, just like Teresa. They should get to play with Latina Barbies that are curvy, like so many of our mamás. There should be an Indigenous-presenting Latina Barbie and an Asian-presenting Latina Barbie, because in we all exist. Barbie is an American icon, a representation of American women, and we Latinas of all backgrounds, complexions, and ethnicities make up the fabric of America. Not only that, but we love Barbie, and so do our little girls. It absolutely thrills us to see them playing with the same toy we enjoyed so much during our own childhoods, and it's even better when that toy looks like them. It's important for young Latina girls to recognize that they matter, too, and that they are capable of anything they can imagine.

Teresa is a start. Gloria is a start. But there's room for more. We'll be waiting.

You can buy the Teresa Doll ($20) at Amazon.