Craig David was basically the godfather of the infamous Flavas dolls

In the early 2000s, the brains behind Barbie debuted a new line of hip-hop- and Black-culture-inspired fashion dolls called Flavas. The verdict? They were problematic (and swiftly discontinued after a year of poor sales). Their legacy? Not entirely tainted, thanks to none other than U.K. R&B legend Craig David.

A photo of Craig David photoshopped over a photo of four of the Flavas dolls.
The first commercial for the Flavas line, circa 2003.
The Flavas crew. (Question: why were the white girls always placed front-and-center?

“They managed to appropriate Black culture in a way that a toy manufacturer never had: fully; terribly; sans a single fuck given. And for that, even today’s wokest colored folks can’t help but hoot and holler — because Mattel really tried it. But then the unexpected happened: unlike most cultural phenomena that use Black aesthetics and stereotypes as a blueprint, the Flavas line tanked.”

A white female Flavas doll spray-paints a brick wall with graffiti lettering. She’s wearing a fuzzy black coat, makeup, and blonde microbraids.
White girls with microbraids >>>>> (Photography by My Plastic Life)
The music video for “Fill Me In,” Craig David’s debut solo single, released in 2000.

“I imagine the business agreement bit went as such: Mattel told David’s people they wanted to use the cut for their groundbreaking collection of multi-ethnic, hip-hop-inspired fashion dolls; David and his people were like, aight, bet, lowkey sounds trash, but we’ll let you use it for this Very Large Sum of Money; then, Mattel said, okay, deal, seems like an excellent investment for this excellent product line. And the rest is history.”

Craig David’s second album, “Slicker than Your Average,” released via Atlantic in 2002.
Ngl, I would thrift this dude’s jacket.

“And even when Mattel got almost everything wrong with the Flavas, they did manage to do one thing sort of right: investing in a prominent, young Black artist to soundtrack a brand beholden to the creativity of Black youth.”

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Sydney N. Sweeney

Sydney N. Sweeney is a writer, editor, and critic based in Los Angeles. Her work focuses on culture, music, identity, and pop nostalgia.