The Untold Inspiration Behind Barbie: Lillie, the Fictional German Courtesan

Jul 28, 2023

We LOVE the Barbie movie, but did you know the original doll was inspired by an Old Pro? Contrary to popular belief, the original Barbie was not just a mere fashion doll but a fictional character based on a remarkable German courtesan named Lillie. Lillie was not only quick-witted and clever, but she also fearlessly fought against whor*phobic sexism with her sense of humor.

The origins of Barbie can be traced back to a comic book series that debuted in a Hamburg newspaper in 1952. It was within these pages that the character of Lillie first came to life. In the spirit of the time, Lillie was portrayed as a confident and vivacious woman who embraced her femininity and challenged societal norms. Her witty remarks and unapologetic attitude made her a symbol of empowerment for women.

In one particular comic strip, Lillie encountered a policeman who informed her that wearing a two-piece swimsuit was illegal. In response, Lillie retorted with a clever line, “Oh, and in your opinion, which part should I take off?” This humorous yet defiant response showcased Lillie’s ability to confront and subvert restrictive societal standards, setting her apart from other female characters of that era.

Lillie’s impact extended beyond the realm of comic books, catching the attention of influential publications like Time Magazine. The Time Magazine article, “Barbie: The History and Evolution of a Cultural Icon,” explored the fascinating history of the Barbie doll and its origins. In the article, the connection between Lillie and Barbie was highlighted, shedding light on the courageous and unapologetic nature of the original character.

As the years passed, the character of Lillie evolved into the globally recognized Barbie doll. The transition from a fictional German courtesan to a fashion doll was not without its challenges. The team behind Barbie faced societal norms that often sought to suppress Lillie’s boldness and independence. However, the spirit of Lillie persisted, and Barbie emerged as a toy that encouraged imagination, empowerment, and inclusivity.

Today, as we celebrate Barbie’s legacy, let us also remember the spirited and audacious character of Lillie, whose influence lives on in the hearts of those who recognize the power of embracing one’s true self, regardless of societal expectations. So, the next time you see a Barbie doll, take a moment to appreciate the remarkable journey of Lillie, the fictional German courtesan, whose legacy continues to inspire generations of children and collectors worldwide.