Ken (doll)

Last updated
First appearanceMarch 11, 1961;60 years ago (March 11, 1961)
Created byElliot Handler
In-universe information
Full nameKenneth Carson
OccupationAt least 40 occupations
  • Edna Carson (mother)
  • Kenneth Carson (father)
  • Izzy Carson (sister)
  • Barbie (girlfriend)
Tommy Carson (Brother)

Ken is a doll and fictional character introduced by Mattel in 1961 as the counterpart of Barbie, who was introduced two years earlier. Ken is from Willows, Wisconsin. [1] Similar to his female counterpart, Ken has a fashionable line of clothing and accessories (although he made his debut wearing only a swim suit [2] ). In the Barbie mythos, Ken met Barbie on the set of a TV commercial. He is Barbie’s boyfriend, as it is written on every box produced since 1961. Since his debut, Ken has held at over 40 occupations. He was invented by Elliot Handler.


Ken and Barbie have been described as two most popular dolls in the world. [3]


From 1961 to the debut of Superstar Ken in 1977, Ken had straight, arms that didn't bend. His head could only turn left and right. Ken's hair was made of felt in his first year (known to collectors as the "flocked" hair Ken), but this was replaced with a plastic, molded hairstyle when the felt hair was found to fall off when wet. [4] Superstar Ken featured a dimpled smile, a head that could swivel, bent arms, a more muscular physique, jewelry, and underwear permanently molded to his body. The woman who made the Ken doll made it to resemble her husband.

Ken's best friend, Allan Sherwood (Midge's boyfriend, later husband), was introduced in 1964. The first African-American male doll, Brad, was introduced in 1968, as the boyfriend of Barbie's African-American friend, Christie, who was introduced in 1967. [5] Brad was voiced by actor Terry Carter.

In 1993, "Earring Magic Ken" was released. The style of the doll was thought to resemble fashions and accessories worn by some segments of the gay community at the time, and "Earring Magic Ken" subsequently attained a cult following, becoming a collector's item. [6]

In February, 2004, Mattel announced a split for Ken and Barbie, with Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, saying that Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time – apart...Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end", though Arons indicated that the duo would "remain friends". [7] In February, 2006 however, a revamped version of the Ken doll was launched, though it was stated that their relationship is still purely platonic. [8] [9] In 2011, Mattel launched a massive campaign for Ken to win Barbie's affections back. [10] The pair officially reunited in Valentine's Day 2011. [11]

Like Barbie, Ken is named after one of Ruth Handler's children, Ken Handler, who died in 1994 of a brain tumor. In January 2009, the media reported on the publication of a book entitled Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel by Jerry Oppenheimer.

In October 2009, Mattel announced a new Palm Beach line which included a "Sugar's Daddy Ken" doll aimed for adult collectors. The said line officially debuted in the spring of 2010. The line proved to be controversial, because of Ken's suggestive-sounding name. The doll had a more mature appearance and came with a West Highland Terrier puppy. Mattel defended the doll's name, saying that the puppy's name is "Sugar", thus making Ken "Sugar's Daddy". [12]

In 2021, Mattel announced 15 new looks for Ken. This included looks with different skin tones, body shapes and hair styles. Barbie underwent a similar makeover in 2020. Outside of this change, Ken hasn't changed much since he was introduced 56+ years ago. [13]


Ken's body proportions have been described as unrealistic by scholarly studies (his chest is estimated to be about 27.5% too large for a representative human male). [14] Unrealistic body proportions in Barbie dolls, including Ken's, have been connected to some eating disorders in children. [15] [16] Another controversy has also centered around the visibility (or lack of it) of Ken's male genitalia. [17]

Media appearances

Ken appeared in the 2010 Pixar film Toy Story 3 , voiced by Michael Keaton. He was one of the henchmen of the film's villain Lotso. [18]

In 2011, Mattel introduced Japan Ken, the first Ken doll to be included in the Dolls of the World collection, which was formerly a Barbie-only line. The Japan Ken doll features a new face sculpt. [19]

In Mattel's official Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse web series, Ken's personality was greatly expounded on.


Ken's personal name is Kenneth Sean Carson. His given name comes from Elliot Handler's son. In the 1960s Random House books, his surname is Carson. According to Mattel, his middle name is Sean.


Related Research Articles

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Mattel, Inc. is an American multinational toy manufacturing company founded in 1945 with headquarters in El Segundo, California. The products and brands it produces include Fisher-Price, Barbie, Monster High, Ever After High, Polly Pocket, Enchantimals, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Masters of the Universe, American Girl, and Thomas & Friends. In the early 1980s, Mattel produced video game systems, under its own brands and under license from Nintendo. The company has presence in 40 countries and territories and sells products in more than 150 countries. The company operates through three business segments: North America, international, and American Girl. It is the world's second largest toy maker in terms of revenue, after The Lego Group. In 2019, it ranked #575 on the Fortune 500 list. On January 17, 2017, Mattel named former Google executive Margo Georgiadis as CEO. Georgiadis stepped down as CEO of Mattel on April 19, 2018. Her last day was on April 26, 2018. Ynon Kreiz is now the new CEO of Mattel.

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Ruth Handler American businesswoman and inventor (1916–2002)

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My Scene

My Scene was an American series of fashion dolls created by Mattel in 2002. Mattel's Barbie character is one of the dolls in the My Scene line, and the My Scene dolls have slim bodies similar to earlier Barbie dolls, but with larger heads. The New York Times described their features as "exaggerated lips and bulging, makeup-caked eyes." My Scene were designed to appeal to the tween market and compete with the Bratz dolls from MGA Entertainment. The series originally consisted of three female characters, but was expanded to eventually include 10 different dolls.

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Earring Magic Ken American toy

Earring Magic Ken is a model of the Ken doll introduced by Mattel in 1993 as a companion to its Earring Magic Barbie figure, one of six dolls in the Earring Magic Barbie line. This generation of the Ken doll featured an updated look, including blonde highlights in his traditionally brown hair, outfits including lavender mesh shirt, purple leather vest, a necklace with a circular charm and, as the name indicates, an earring in his left ear.

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  18. "The Actors: 'Toy Story 3's' Michael Keaton". Los Angeles Times. 2010-05-02. Retrieved 2021-09-13.
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