Madison Avenue wants cute little black girls, can’t find them


Hear that stampeding noise? It’s the sound of dozens of agencies frantically trying to sign young black female models — because now that the Obamas are the first family, black is suddenly beautiful! And marketable!

New York magazine reports that ad agencies are suddenly eager to cast young girls who look like Sasha and Malia Obama to sell products. (Thanks to Jezebel for the tip.)

Malia, left, and Sasha Obama

But wait, hold the phone! Is that even possible? Marlene Wallach, president of Wilhelmina Kids & Teens, says the First Daughters are tough subjects to match because, “It’s a very specific age and a very specific ethnicity, so there aren’t that many girls that would necessarily fit the bill.”

Um, what? It’s difficult to find cute young black girls? What city/country have you been living in? What you really meant to say is, "Damn, I guess we really should have had more than one black model on our payroll before now!"

Ty Inc., the Beanie Babies company, is already cashing in on the craze with dolls named "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia," which have already sold out despite the toy makers denial that the dolls are based on the Obama girls (nice try, Ty).

Sweet Sasha, left, and Marvelous Malia

The Obama girls are cute as a button, as my grandmother likes to say. It’s hard not to smile whenever you see them, and I actually look up from the computer screen whenever they’re on TV (and it takes a lot to make that happen).

Malia and Sasha with President Obama (aka Dad)

But I don’t love the relentless commoditization of everything under the sun, especially little girls (Michelle Obama‘s not thrilled, either — her spokesperson denounced the Ty Inc. dolls because, “we believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes”).

On the other hand, I do love the fact that modeling agencies are now being forced to hire more black girls and women. As the continued discouraging results from the classic white-doll/black-doll studies show (as recently as 2006!), there’s clearly a need for greater visibility and celebration of darker-skinned women.

What do you all think — another positive outcome from the Obama election, another depressing sign of America’s obsession with consumerism, or proof that we still have a long way to go to achieve true racial equality? (Or all three?)

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