Barbie will appear in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, photographed like a toy version of a Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks and wearing an updated version of the black and white bathing suit in which she first appeared in 1959.
Coupled with a new hashtag campaign, "#unapologetic," it's a way for Mattel, which recently reported Barbie's worldwide gross sales were down 13 percent, to stir up and seize back an ongoing cultural conversation over Barbie's body image.
For the magazine's 50th anniversary edition, the doll appears alongside other Swimsuit cover models who have built successful business empires. She'll also star on 1,000 cover wraps distributed at the American International Toy Fair, being held this week in New York.
For Mattel, having their iconic featured in a magazine criticized for showcasing living Barbies is a calculated gamble.
"Barbie has always been a lightning rod for controversy and opinions," said Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni. "Posing in SI gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have accomplished and show the world it is OK to be capable and captivating."
While seeing a girl's doll given the same photographic treatment as their real objects of desire could turn off some male readers, lads aren't the real target.