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Mattel Introduces New Diverse Ken Dolls; Hopes To Reverse Sales Slump

Mattel announced Tuesday that it is introducing 15 new diverse looks for the Ken doll.

Barbie's one-time blue-eyed boyfriend is getting a makeover. Toymaker Mattel is giving its Ken doll a variety of new looks in hopes the makeovers will move the toys into the modern era.

On Tuesday, the company rolled out 15 new Ken dolls with three body types: "slim, broad and original." They have seven skin tones, nine hairstyles — including cornrows and "man buns" — and an array of sartorial styles from business casual to athletic-chic.

"We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation," Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager, Barbie, said in a press release. McKnight says the new Ken, "allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie's world."

The evolving Ken is just catching up with Barbie. Last year Mattel introduced three new body types for Barbie: tall, curvy and petite in addition to new skin tones and hairstyles.

Mattel says this "Fashionistas" line — of which the new Ken doll is now a part — has seen double digit growth globally since its roll-out.

The company has been looking to revive the Barbie business following a slump. Sales for the brand fell 13 percent to $123 million dollars in the first quarter this year, from $141 million the year before, according to figures released by the toymaker.

Launched in 1959, Barbie has gained a bad reputation in some circles for her unrealistic proportions and sexualized appearance. And yet after nearly six decades, she remains a staple in children's toy boxes.

The Wall Street Journal reports that on average, kids have one Ken doll per seven Barbies.

Mattel said Tuesday it is also rolling out 25 new, diverse Barbie dolls.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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