The Asha facemold has embodied several Barbie friends such as Christie, Nichelle or Barbie herself, among others, and of course Asha, the name by which we know the mold.
Asha was one of Shaní's friends, a line that Mattel launched in the 90s to stand alone a part from Barbie but with characters that could share a wardrobe and become friends with the most famous doll.
Different and Wonderful written by the children psychologist Darlene Powell Hopson inspired the line. It was read at Mattel and they sought its co-autor advice to make a new line that represented the african american children of the 90s. Soon Dr. Hopson was giving advice to a team of african-american women with Kitty Black Perkins as the designer in chief of the line.
First, various skin tones for the children to feel represented. Shani, would had the middle one, Nichelle the lightest and Asha the darkest. The facial features had to be more ethnically correct, thing for what the sculptor Hussein Abbo studied faces of afroamerican women for months, and the body shape too, but she had to fit in Barbie clothes, so her body was changed only slightly. That lead to critics for Shani being too skinny although her arms were reshaped in a more natural position and the angle of her back changed giving the effect of higher buttocks. Boys arrived in 92 with Jamal but he suffered some changes because he was seen too sexual unlike the bland Ken.
Equally important were the clothes full of spicy tones, african styles, kufi hats and clothes like Kente but there were two of Dr. Hopson premises that couldn't be. The hair was one of them...
"To be truly realistic, one should have shorter hair, but little girls of all races love hairplay. We added more texture. But we can't change the fact that long, combable hair is still a key seller" Deborah Mitchell (Product Manager).
... and the other was to include guidelines for "Positive Play" in the box for parents to work their children self-steem, thing that Dr. Hopson knew well after many studies and published books about the topic. At the end she was pretty satisfied until 1993 when the line Shani Soul Train was released after a TV Show and not from a more inspirational topic as she recommended.
Shani eventually was included as a Barbie friend but ended disapearing as a character and as a line too. In Asha's case, in addition to Nichelle, Christie or Barbie, she also embodied characters such as Shawnee, Tia or Destiny Child Kelly Rowland, as well as other dolls from the playline and the Collector line to this day.
Shaní disappeared and was a sad ending for the line but in the end everything is about numbers