By Jessica Marin, 16, Culver City HS
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Jessica says it's OK to still have an attachment to childhood toys.

I am a 16-year-old who still likes Barbie. On the top shelf of my bookcase are four Barbies, never removed from their boxes, in mint condition.

She is more than just a plastic toy. She represents how I want to be when I’m older—sophisticated, glamorous, stylish. I love how she lives in different cities, has different careers and seems to be a part of different cultures. And I admire that she can do all these things while being so well dressed.

Barbie was my absolute favorite toy when I was a little girl; I played with her for hours. My mom ran a daycare at our house and we had puzzles, balls, jump ropes and hula hoops, but the majority of my day was spent with Barbie. I was her stylist and hairdresser, and she was my model.

When I was about 8, I stopped playing with Barbie. I felt like I was too old for her. I put my dolls in a big plastic storage box under my bed. Over time I gave about half away.

By eighth grade my new love was fashion. I bought CosmoGirl every month. I thought the clothes in the magazine were so pretty and I liked how you can express yourself with your clothes. Then I started reading Teen Vogue and now I read Nylon and Glamour and sometimes Vogue.

This Barbie was so stylish I had to have her

Jessica shows off her Barbie collection. Photo by Dana Green, 16, North Hollywood HS Zoo Magnet

I never thought I’d buy another Barbie. But when I was 13, I went to a yard sale with my mom on a Saturday morning. I hadn’t noticed the Barbie for sale until my mom brought it over. She held a box in her hands and inside I saw a gorgeous brunette Barbie. She was Autumn in Paris Barbie, walking along the Champs-Elysees, a famous street in Paris. She looked trés chic with her beret (a French hat), a long burgundy skirt, plaid jacket and a cane, like something straight out of the pages of Vogue.

The box was shaped differently than regular Barbie boxes and it said “Collectors.” “She must be expensive,” I thought. My room needed more decorations and I thought she would look good on top of my bookcase where there was just a small jewelry box. Turns out she was only $5. I wanted her to stay perfect, so I kept her in her box and put her on my shelf. She looked like a mini model.

After buying Autumn in Paris Barbie, I became interested in Barbie culture. Last year Barbie turned 50. Designers created collections around Barbie during New York fashion week. A make-up company sold kits based on classic Barbies, like the original Barbie whose kit had red lipstick and black eye shadow. I found out that people collect Barbies. An original from 1959 can be worth $8,000. It’s crazy that a Barbie can be worth that much.

That next spring I was with my mom at the Salvation Army and while browsing I found another Barbie from the same collection as my Barbie in Paris! She was Spring in Tokyo Barbie. She’s a dark-haired doll with a classic cream suit and a boxy black hat. She cost $20. This time I didn’t hesitate to buy her because I was thinking of starting a collection. I really liked how Barbie represented the culture of major fashion cities. I imagined myself going around the world dressed like her.

A few months later, my aunt gave me another doll as a gift when I graduated from middle school. She was a flamboyant red-haired Irish Dance Barbie representing the festivals where young girls compete in traditional Irish dance competitions. Because her hair is curly I could imagine it bouncing when she is dancing.

A few weeks later I went to the L.A. County Fair and a woman was selling collectible toys. She had about 50 Barbies. I walked around saying “Oh my god, I want this one!” at almost every Barbie. My dad jokingly rolled his eyes and made fun of me. There was an Audrey Hepburn Barbie from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s on sale for $110. I love Hepburn and I’ve seen that movie five times. She is my idol. She set the standard for classic style with the little black dress, pearls and dark sunglasses. Then I saw an Eliza Doolittle doll, Hepburn’s character in My Fair Lady. This Barbie had a beautiful lace gown with a gorgeous sun hat like the ones they used back in the early 1900s. She cost $75. I asked my dad, expecting him to say no, but he bought it for me. He was in a happy mood. Yes, it was expensive, but I thought she was worth it. I looked at her in the car on the way home from the fair, giddy with excitement, like a little kid on Christmas morning.

My friends don’t understand

The next day I was so I excited. I told my friends, “Guess what! I got a really cool Barbie!” They said, “You’re crazy.” Especially when I told them I had spent $75. “What’s wrong with you?” they said. I started to think maybe I’m too old for Barbie, but I just laughed. I didn’t think it was absurd. I loved my Barbie.

I told my French teacher about my Eliza doll and she told me that she also loved and collected dolls. During spring break my friend Marilyn and I had a girls day out with our French teacher. We went to Toys “R” Us so my teacher could buy a baby gift. We went straight to the Barbie section. She told us that her house was full of Tinker Bell items. I thought, “OK so I’m 16 and I still like Barbies, there is nothing wrong with that. My French teacher still likes Tinker Bell and she’s a grown woman!” I felt relieved I wasn’t the only one who still liked toys.

When I look at my Barbies, I see art. Their clothes are so elaborate and fancy. It gets me thinking about fashion even more. One day I’d like to oversee photo shoots for a fashion magazine. Inspiration can come from anywhere, including a Barbie.