Alumni and Friends | Profiles

Bobcat in a Barbie World

From the bricks of Athens to the pink carpet, Ohio University alumna Kayla Carpenter, BSJ ‘13, helps bring the Barbie world to life as the Manager of Global Brand Marketing for Barbie at Mattel, Inc. As the manager of Barbie’s global brand marketing, Carpenter ensures consistent messaging in all places Barbie is present. And right now, Barbie is showing up everywhere.

For the past 18 months, Carpenter's work has revolved around the success of the blockbuster “Barbie” film, which hit theaters this past July. The film accomplished the biggest opening weekend in history, by female director Greta Gerwig.

“I have absolutely loved seeing the reaction of this space for all women to feel included and like they can be themselves,” Carpenter said. “I think Greta Gerwig did such a beautiful job of telling a story that reflects what so many women feel, I’ve absolutely loved that.”

Although the team anticipated success after their years of hard work, the Barbie brand’s household name status, and talented actors like Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, there was no predicting the social phenomenon the movie has become.

We knew the film would be big,” Carpenter said. “But I don’t think we could ever have anticipated the cultural response to the film.”

Carpenter studied journalism on the strategic communication track in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She credits her success to her experiences at OHIO that gave her the confidence and skills to succeed, while exposing her to the brand marketing career path.

Originally from Canton, Ohio, Carpenter knew she wanted to attend a university with a strong journalism program. As soon as she visited the Athens campus, Carpenter knew she wanted to be a Bobcat.

“I just remember having this moment of thinking ‘Okay, this place seems really amazing, I want to come here,’” she said. “And knowing what a top-tier journalism program that there was, it all just kind of clicked into place. It was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment for me, and honestly, I could not be more grateful to have gone to OU.”

In and out of the classroom, Carpenter attests to the personal and professional skills she gained from OHIO that she carries with her today.

“I feel like in Athens is when I really came into my own.” 

Carpenter acknowledged one of the most impactful skills offered by the Scripps College of Communication is the writing proficiency students gain through their coursework.  

“Being able to clearly communicate your point in a succinct matter – whether that’s an email, a PowerPoint slide, an essay, a journalistic piece – it is so important. I have found that throughout my career. Those types of communication skills are invaluable no matter where you work and makes such a huge difference.”

Carpenter described the experience and support from faculty and fellow classmates she received during her time at OHIO that gave her the confidence to pursue later opportunities.

“Being able to talk with professionals and have classes that were so specific to the industry were really helpful and I think set me up for success there,” she reflected. “People at Scripps were just so passionate about the industry that it made me feel really excited.

Following graduation, Carpenter accepted a post-undergraduate internship at Golin, and moved to Dallas for about 4.5 years. She credits her time at OHIO for helping her develop the confidence to move to a city she had never been to and start her career.

Looking to apply her strategic marketing education, Carpenter applied to business school and strengthen her marketing background. She attended UCLA Anderson School of Management, which brought her to Los Angeles, where she achieved her MBA.

After experimenting with various areas within the marketing field, she secured a job with Mattel, Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles, where Carpenter has now lived for six years. When a role on the Barbie Global Brand Marketing team opened about 2.5 years ago, Carpenter knew it was something she wanted to pursue.

“I’ve just been so inspired by the brand,” she said. “I remember [the] vice president on my team, he also went to UCLA and had spoken at a few events there. He talked about the turnaround of the Barbie brand, how the brand is so rooted in diversity and inclusion and girl empowerment in everything that they’re trying to do. I just remember thinking I really want to be on his team, I want to work on Barbie.”


Carpenter poses at the "Barbie" film premiere.
Carpenter, BSJ '13, celebrates her hard work on the pink carpet during the "Barbie" film premiere.

“It has simultaneously been the most fun and impassioned I’ve felt at work, and also the most stressed,” she laughed.

“My role as brand marketing is overarching everything,” she explained. “Our team really are brand stewards for Barbie and every place that Barbie is showing up.”

From social media posts to influencers attending events, to brand partnerships, the team is constantly considering how to best represent the brand’s purpose while remaining authentic. 

More than a movie 

“Barbie is more than just a film,” Carpenter said. “Luckily, working with Warner Bros. was amazing because they really understood that and had a lot of the shared goals there. We collectively wanted to make this movie the biggest movie of the summer and of the year. It’s been so incredible to see that happen.”

She described that the message behind “Barbie” transcends the film itself and has greatly contributed to its popularity.

“The Barbie movie is funny and it’s powerful, and it doesn’t have to be that serious, but it also has a beautiful message. I think it’s the perfect balance of that.”

The film has also successfully created a space for female empowerment that allows many women to feel validated and seen on screen.

Carpenter’s own definition of female support stems from the individuals she met during her time at OHIO.

“Having that support group of women that I’ve known since I was 18 is really incredible. Those are all people I’ve met in Athens, lived with, and was in my sorority with, and have rooted for each other as we’ve moved to different cities,” she said. “My biggest takeaway from OU is the people that I’ve came out with.”

Carpenter explained one of the brand’s key focuses is to bring representation to children at a young age, which aligned directly with the making of the movie.

“Every year we think about how to be more inclusive and how to be a showcase of what girls are seeing in their everyday lives so that girls growing up today can look at our brand and feel represented, which is so amazing. The team works so hard to make that happen and make sure that every detail of that is authentic.” 

Barbie has had 250 careers through the brand’s ‘You can be anything’ messaging. Each year, the company chooses a career of the year to highlight a new area for young girls to consider and aspire to be.

“I think the film showcases that so wonderfully,” Carpenter said. “Barbie was an astronaut before people went to the moon. Barbie has done everything, and it was so fun to see all the careers show up.”

The film’s success is also a testament to its reach across all ages and demographics. Young people who recently grew up with the dolls and older demographics alike shared excitement to see the Barbie world come to life on-screen.

Carpenter, 32, reflected on her own 25 Barbie dolls and the Barbie Dream House she grew up with.


Carpenter celebrating the "Barbie" premiere in London.

“This generation of millennials strongly grew up with the brand, and even our parents grew up with it because Barbie is 65 [years old],” Carpenter said. “Because of this nostalgia for Barbie that people have, it also helps that not only are parents and kids excited for the movie, but truly people who have experienced the brand at some point in their lives were so thrilled to see something like this.”

At Mattel, Carpenter’s team divides work on the many facets of the Barbie brand. Carpenter leads the marketing and strategy for Barbie’s environmental impact and the scientific benefits of doll play. She also leads marketing of the Barbie Dream House, along with leading the strategy for the Barbie Style Instagram account.

There are so many things that are so rooted in purpose,” Carpenter explained of the Barbie brand.

“One of my very first projects was called ‘Thank You, Heroes.’ We made one-of-a-kind lookalike dolls of six women around the world who did incredible, extraordinary things during COVID. These people are so incredible and getting to raise them up and showcase them and inspire girls around the world.”

Alongside the great meaning in the work of the Barbie team, Carpenter also emphasizes the importance of having fun and being enthusiastic about the work she does.

“I love having fun at work and being with people who want to collaborate and love what they do,” Carpenter said. “Especially on the Barbie team, people feel so excited and passionate about Barbie and the work that we’re doing that it makes it really fun, and I think a lot of that for me stems from [my time at] OU.”

She was able to witness the team’s hard work come to life at the premiere of the film, which she attended in London.

Carpenter watches as London's landmark buildings are lit up in signature Barbie pink in celebration of the premiere.
Carpenter watches as London's skyline is lit up in signature Barbie pink in celebration of the film's premiere.

“It was so amazing,” Carpenter said of the premiere. “Walking out onto the pink carpet was just incredible. People were lined up the entire night before dressed in full costumes. It was just truly this incredible moment, especially in a different country, to see your brand inspiring so many people.”

Carpenter described wandering London late after the premiere, soaking it all in as the city’s landmarks were lit up in signature Barbie pink.

"It really is an amazing feeling when you feel like your work can make a positive impact,” she said.  

August 17, 2023
Jordan Schmitt