‘It sent a message’: Julie Bishop just got her own Barbie doll

Throughout her career, Julie Bishop has been honoured in numerous ways. And though she may not yet have an Order of Australia award, Bishop now has something almost no other Australian has: her own Barbie doll.

Toy giant Mattel is honouring Bishop, now chancellor of the Australian National University, as its 2021 Australian role model for being a “true trailblazer” in politics and the roles she has occupied since, giving her a one-off doll that is, sadly, not for sale.

Julie Bishop with her Barbie doll, whose outfit is modelled on her dress from the day she quit politics.Credit:Russell James

The day Bishop quit politics – August 26, 2018 – was so symbolic that she chose her navy Armani dress and coat, and those red Rodo shoes, to be replicated for the doll’s outfit. Completing the look are matching diamond earrings and brooch, a diplomatic passport and Bishop’s silver carry-on suitcase. The hairstyle is also more reflective of Bishop’s 2018 ’do than its current shoulder length.

Bishop’s love of Barbie goes back nearly six decades; she still has the Jackie Kennedy doll her parents gave her as a child. She also has an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Barbie given to her by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service as a farewell gift in 2018.

“Knowing how much Barbie had meant to me as a little girl, knowing how Barbie had evolved into this doll that inspired young girls to choose fascinating careers, I jumped at this opportunity,” she says.

Although Barbie has historically been criticised for reinforcing stereotypes around gender and promoting an unrealistic body image, Bishop says the company’s ethos has moved “even ahead of the feminist zeitgeist”, as well as on matters of diversity, and that such perceptions are “outdated”.

Julie Bishop’s “resignation” red shoes have become an icon of Australian political life.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mattel acknowledged Bishop’s love of fashion in explaining its decision to honour her, including the establishment of a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Fashion Chamber to promote the local industry.

Still, Bishop’s love of style was frequently targeted by her detractors, who sometimes referred to her pejoratively as the “minister for fashion”. Bishop is a regular at the Melbourne Cup Carnival and Australian Fashion Week, where last month she formally dedicated a runway space to the late Carla Zampatti.

The Julie Bishop Barbie doll.Credit:Mattel

“I wanted to help promote Australian fashion. The industry was such a massive contributor to our … economy, yet it received very little attention.

“It sent a message that you can be a fashion aficionado and still have a very serious job. The more people would try to use my interest in fashion as a negative, the more I saw it as a positive to get out that message.”

Bishop’s involvement with Mattel includes working on its “Dream Gap” project, which aims to show girls as young as five that they can achieve the same career goals as boys. Locally, she says there’s a major “dream gap” among Indigenous youth, and as ANU chancellor she is focusing on attracting more First Nations students, including through new scholarships.

Bishop says women who meet her – on planes, in shopping centres – often stop her for advice on the topics of resilience, and succeeding in male-dominated fields. “I continued on, despite well-publicised efforts to derail my career,” she says. “I just kept going.”

Credit:Matt Golding

Previous Barbie ambassadors include ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose, wildlife campaigner Bindi Irwin and paralympic wheelchair racer Madison De Rozario.

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