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Barbie to grace Sports Illlustrated cover

The iconic doll will feature in the anniversary edition alongside the hashtag #UNAPOLOGETIC.

Barbie will join a generation of iconic stunners next week in the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Swimsuit edition. Picture: AFP.

AUSTIN - Red-blooded beauties, step aside: a plastic Barbie doll will join a generation of iconic stunners next week in the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary Swimsuit edition.

Barbie takes her place alongside a host of legendary swimsuit models as part of a new promotional campaign with the magazine.

"Barbie is a legend in her own right, with more than 150 careers and a brand valued at $3 billion. She is in great company with the other legends, such as Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley, to name a few,"said Mattel spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni.

The cover will be unveiled on the late-night TV talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight.

The magazine is due to hit newsstands on Tuesday.

The campaign refers to Barbie as "the doll that started it all," and uses the hashtag "#Unapologetic" to promote buzz around the issue.

The hashtag appears in discussions on social media sites, on a billboard in Manhattan's Times Square, and in an as-yet-unexplained plan to take over the "NASDAQ digital footprint" on Thursday, according to a company statement.

The "unapologetic" refrain is a cheeky nod to critics who have insisted for decades that Barbie and the magazine contribute to unhealthy expectations of beauty and poor body self-image in girls.

Barbie's appearance has sparked a fresh round of criticism beyond the long-standing arguments that the doll is impossibly skinny and that the real women in the issue are objectified or go to unhealthy lengths to look the way they do.

Mattel said in a statement that the ad campaign celebrates "some of the world's most famous swimsuit legends - like Barbie - who have gone on to break boundaries, build empires and shape culture."

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