• Lerato Molapo is the first African woman to have the iconic Barbie custom-made for her.
  • This was part of the ongoing 60th-anniversary celebrations to commemorate the global impact of the iconic doll which was first created in 1959.
  • Molapo joins filmmaker Ava Duvernay, NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson, and other notable women chosen as Barbie role models.

The first Barbie doll was created in 1959. 60 years later, it has gained worldwide notoriety and honored certain extraordinary women by making dolls in their likeness.

The latest person to join this exclusive list of women, dubbed ‘Barbie Role Models,’ is Lerato Molapo, a South African Singer, Actress, and Businesswoman. She joins impressive women like filmmaker Ava Duvernay, Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and NASA Mathematician/Physicist Katherine Johnson.

Barbie Role Models (barbie)
Barbie Role Models (barbie)

She becomes the first African woman to get the iconic Barbie custom made for her. Her doll is part of the ongoing 60th-anniversary celebrations to commemorate the doll’s global impact.

Molapo, known professionally as Lira, took to Instagram to acknowledge the history-making moment.

She wrote: “I am proud to announce that I have been awarded a one-of-a-kind Lira Barbie doll, as part of Barbie’s 60th Anniversary Shero campaign celebrating role models who inspire young girls to be all they can be."

"I am the very first African to be bestowed with this honor and I’m simply thrilled to be honored in this way…They gave me a call and I couldn’t believe it…. The team worked extremely hard to make my doll- and this is the highest honor BARBIE could give someone.”

Her doll, which is styled in clothes and jewelry from South African designers, was made in the Barbie design center in Los Angeles, California.

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Profiling Molapo, the first African to get her own Barbie doll

Barbie’s first African role model was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She speaks four languages including Setswana, her native tongue.

After studying Finance and Accounting, she switched to Music. She recorded her first demo at 18 while working as an Accountant to pay for recording time at a local studio.

Lira eventually left her accounting job at 22 to pursue music full time. She got her first deal two weeks after she quit her job and has been a roll ever since.

In 2006, she was signed to Sony Music Africa and started her record label, Otarel Music, that same year. It is reportedly one of the only two fully black-owned labels in South Africa. She launched her label in the U.S five years later. 

The now 40-year-old singer has won several awards at the Metro FM Awards, South African Music Awards (SAMA) and Channel O Reel Music Awards. She was also nominated in 2012 as ‘Best International Artist’ at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.

Her other accolades include performing with Alicia Keys, Shakira, K’naan and John Legend at the 2010 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in South Africa, playing a major role in the 2011 foreign film “The Italian Consul,” and performing at former President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball in 2013.