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Barbie AND Ken, the personal branding story
"Are you Stereotypical, Ordinary or Weird Barbie?"

authenticity entrepreneurship how to fascinateĀ® mindset personal branding Aug 14, 2023
Karolien Vanhelden - Personal Branding - Barbie & Ken, the personal branding story


Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl ever existed, there have been dolls. But the dolls were always and forever baby dolls, until Barbie arrived and the world turned pink. (Because pink goes with everything, right?) I wasn’t intrigued by the Barbie movie because it is a girly thing or because of the feminist side. As a marketer at heart, I cannot afford not going to the most marketing hyped movie of the last years, can I? So I was curious: Life in plastic, is it fantastic? 

I came back home from the movie theater with the personal branding story of Barbie AND Ken…

  • “No Barbie no Ken should be living in the shadow.” Or should Barbie be put back in the box?

I guide entrepreneurs and professionals with a growth ambition to step out of their own shadow in a confident, authentic and fascinating way. You don’t want to make a difference being quiet, or even being loud. You want to make a difference by being heard. 

Therefore I show my clients their own communication style, because that is the way they will fascinate people and, hence, be heard. So I was very pleased to hear that no Barbie and no Ken should be living in the shadow.

At a certain moment in the movie, Barbie needed to be put back in the box, so that everything would be normal again. She was almost tied to the box again with her hands and legs. Don’t allow people to box you, but search for your own light instead of staying in the shadow or doing what other people tell you to do.

(Note: On the photo I was in the Barbie box. But you see the box was broken, meaning I broke out the box…)

  • Stereotypical Barbie, Ordinary Barbie or Weird Barbie?

The movie started out with “Stereotypical Barbie”: beautiful, perfect, liked by everyone, living in a dream house,… But is this what you want? When you understand how the world sees you, you will discover your most valuable differences. Leverage these differences to avoid commoditization and being stereotypical and predictable. Do you want to be one-of-many or do you want to be one-of-a-kind?

At the end of the film the suggestion was made to create “Ordinary Barbie”: you are always expected to be extraordinary but it is OK to be who you are and to feel kinda good of yourself. I dare to challenge Ordinary Barbie. You will never be ordinary. You do extraordinary things just by being yourself. You are an extraordinary, unique person, whatever you do or whoever you are!

So I am more a fan of "Weird Barbie", who’s mission was in the beginning to make other Barbies perfect and was (unfairly) seen as ugly & unwanted. But finally she started owning being Weird Barbie and that is how it should be. Embrace your flaws, quirks, uniqueness, unusual traits,… Embrace being weird and extraordinary! 

  • "I am just Ken. And I am (K)enough."

But I definitely do, of course, agree with the concept of Ordinary Barbie that it is OK to be who you are. And for me, this doesn’t only apply to women. It applies to everyone. Also to the Kens of our world.

I felt uncomfortable that the Kens didn’t have a personality (or didn’t discover it yet). Professional deformation, I guess… But it is true. It has always been “Barbie & Ken”. There is no “Ken”. And just like in the movie, you also have to figure out who you are without something or someone else. I am more than “Karolien, mother of Lilly” or “Karolien, partner of Tim”. The Kens were fighting because they didn’t know who they were (to then get the epiphany: “Ken is ME!”).

Stop exhausting yourself trying to be someone you are not or trying to be all things to all people. Can you even be everything? Let’s already start with being yourself… You are (K)enough. Or like Ruth Handler, inventor of Barbie, stated: You are just right… 

  • “Maybe I want to do the imagining. I don't want to be an idea anymore."

Ruth also indicated that ideas live forever. Humans not so much. They have one ending. Barbie didn’t want to be the idea anymore. She wanted to be part of the people who make meaning. Imagination, life is your creation as in the popular Barbie song, remember?

In your personal branding, use your imagination, feel what you are made for and apply the Barbie philosophy of achieving everything you set your mind to. And inspire, just like Barbie, the people in the real imperfect world…

Now leave your plastic life behind and get out of your own shadow. Undo you from the box you or other people have put you into. Don’t choose anymore between the high heels or the Birkenstocks (the pink ones, of course), between being brainwashed or ugly & unwanted as in the movie. There is an in-between: YOU! You are enough, you are extraordinary, you can achieve anything…

Go Barbie! Go Ken! Go You! Do you feel the (K)energy too? (OK, this last one is maybe one step too far in my enthusiasm…)

Want to uncover the Weird Barbie inside of you and step out of your own shadow? Have a look at my program 
Your Personal Brand kickstart with Fascinate® (Available in Nederlands and English!). 
It is the combination of the How To Fascinate® assessment, two coaching sessions of each 90 minutes and an extensive report. 

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