I’ve walked past her a hundred times since I started working at the Stark Center a few months ago. She’s at the end of a row on the top shelf, housed amongst the trophies, plaques, and awards of iconic U.T. Coaches, seemingly a bit out of place. She’s one of thousands of artifacts hidden behind the archive doors of the Stark. She’s frozen in time, forever suspended in her leap wearing her Texas cheerleading outfit, complete with pompoms and ponytails. Boxed. Untouched. Unplayed with. Perfect. Our U.T. Cheerleader Barbie.

The Barbie movie is all the rage right now. You have to be hiding under a rock not to have been inundated with the advertising for the movie, the cross marketing, and even the soundtrack. Barbie has been bleeding into Austin for weeks, starting with the famous “I love you so much” mural on South Congress that has been transformed into “Barbie, I love you so much. -Ken.” There are countless Barbie Parties being thrown around town and Barbie-themed cocktails at almost every bar. I realized just how hard-core Barbie was infiltrating our world when I turned on NPR on my drive into the Stark one morning and they were engrossed in an analysis of the Barbie soundtrack as possibly the best backyard BBQ soundtrack of all time. Huh.

A few weeks ago, on one of my daily walks with one of my besties, we were discussing the Barbie mania and I mentioned that we had a U.T. Barbie at the Stark. She laughed and told me that when she was at UT, she had been gifted a U.T. Cheerleader Barbie from a former U.T. student body president. Her Barbie had a far different experience at U.T. than had our Barbie. Her U.T. Barbie had really whooped it up—she experienced sweaty hot football games at DKR Stadium and the Cotton Bowl, attended campus events, and even partied late into the night on 6th Street. Her Barbie had been played with HARD, just like the Kate McKinnon Barbie character in the movie. All of her U.T. Barbie’s exploits had occurred while our U.T. Barbie sat quietly in her box, hidden away from the real world. 

In the Barbie movie, Barbie must leave Barbieland to visit the real world. I won’t spoil anything here if you haven’t seen the movie. However, I will say that it’s very cleverly written. I started thinking that our U.T. Barbie deserved to visit the real world, or at least the campus she so proudly represents. She missed her time to shine during her college years, as had my friend’s Barbie, but she could at least take in the sights. I decided to take her out and about so she could experience the best of the best at U.T. We didn’t have the cool pink Barbie Corvette, the speedboat, the tandem bike, nor the rocket ship to make the journey to campus, but we did manage to get to our destination. Come along and join in the fun as U.T. Cheerleader Barbie gets out into the real world on the University of Texas campus.

After a long days’ activities around campus, U.T. Barbie was ready to return to the Stark Center. Touring the 40 acres can be overwhelming for even the most adventurous souls, so you can imagine how relieved Barbie was to return to her comfort zone. The good news is that she made it out of the archives and into a display case in the reading room amongst friends. Feel free to drop by the Stark to visit Barbie and see all of the other amazing items on display.

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