‘Hidden Figures’ no more: New Barbie dolls honor NASA’s Katherine Johnson and 16 other women

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is immortalized as a Barbie doll. (Mattel Photo)

“Hidden Figures” mathematician Katherine Johnson may have missed out on the Lego toy treatment, but she and 16 other women are getting the Barbie doll treatment just in time for International Women’s Day.

Today Mattel announced that it’s rolling out 17 new Barbie dolls — including 14 one-of-a-kind dolls that are styled after modern-day role models for its “Shero” program (a mashup of “she” and “hero”), plus a new line called “Inspiring Women” that pays tribute to historical role models.

Johnson, a 99-year-old black mathematician whose work at NASA was featured in the hit movie “Hidden Figures,” is included as one of the Inspiring Women, along with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and pioneering American aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Mattel commissioned a survey of 8,000 mothers with daughters aged 10 or younger, and found that 81 percent of them worried about the types of role models their children were exposed to.

“We are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything,” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager for the Barbie line at Mattel, said in a news release.

In its sales blurb, Mattel says Johnson’s Barbie “celebrates the achievements of a pioneer who broke through barriers of race and gender.”

Johnson was also included in a set of five proposed Lego minifigures honoring women scientists and explorers associated with NASA. But the final set, released by Lego late last year, didn’t include her. It eventually came out that Lego couldn’t get the required approval from Johnson and her family.

Did the fact that Johnson was destined for the Barbie doll treatment play a part in all that? Hard to tell, but in any case, it looks as if this toy story has a happy ending.

Barbie Global Role Models include Vicky Martin Berrocal, Xiaotong Guan, Bindi Irwin, Sara Gama, Chloe Kim, Martyna Wojciechowska, Nicola Adams, Yuan Yuan Tan, Patty Jenkins, Hélène Darroze, Hui Ruoqi and Leyla Piedayesh.(PRNewsfoto / Mattel)

Here’s a list of the women immortalized this year as “Shero” Barbie dolls. These dolls aren’t going on sale but are being given to the women who inspired them:

The “Inspiring Women” dolls will retail for $29.99 online and in stores. The new “Shero” dolls join others that have been released since 2015. Some of them, such as the dolls inspired by Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, have gone into wider production.

Hat tip to CollectSpace’s Robert Z. Pearlman.