New Barbie pays tribute to Asian-American Hollywood trailblazer

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Asian-American Hollywood trailblazer Anna May Wong, who was immortalised with a US quarter six months ago, has received another accolade – her own Barbie.

Mattel announced the release of the new doll to mark Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month.

The figure has her trademark hairstyle, eyebrows and well-manicured nails.

The doll is dressed in a red gown with a shiny golden dragon design and cape, inspired by her appearance in the 1934 movie Limehouse Blues.

A Barbie doll in the image of Anna May Wong
A Barbie doll in the image of Anna May Wong (Jason Tidwell/Mattel via AP)

“I did not hesitate at all. It was such an honour and so exciting,” she said. “I wanted to make sure they got her facial features and clothing correct. And they did.”

The doll is part of the Barbie Inspiring Women series, which features dolls in the likeness of pioneering women. Past inspirations include aviator Amelia Earhart and artist Frida Kahlo.

“As the first Asian American actor to lead a US television show, whose perseverance broke down barriers for her gender and AAPI community in film and TV, Anna May Wong is the perfect fit for our Barbie Inspiring Women series,” said Lisa McKnight, an executive vice president at Mattel.

Born in Los Angeles, the actress is considered the first major Asian-American movie star.

Anna May Wong Barbie doll
The new Barbie doll (Marci Manklow/Mattel via AP)

In the 1930s, she was acting opposite stars such as Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express. But in 1937, she lost the lead role of a Chinese villager in The Good Earth to Luise Rainer, a white actress who went on to win a best actress Oscar.

In the ensuing decades, she went to Europe to act. But she later returned to the US. In 1951, she led her own television show, The Gallery Of Madame Liu-Tsong. The short-lived mystery series was believed to be the first with an Asian-American lead.

In another first, she was the first Asian-American woman to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for acting in 1960. She died a year later at the age of 56.

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