With her improbably perfect figure (rumoured to be 39-18-33), and translucent skin, you'd never guess that she was hurtling towards her 40th birthday. And she has retained her youthful good looks without resorting to a single liposome, let alone anything as radical as silicon implants. But, as you'd expect with one of the world's most talked about women, it hasn't all been plain sailing for Barbie. In the Seventies, she was a target for feminist groups (she subsequently reinvented herself as astronaut, doctor, brain surgeon), while a spoof biography in 1993 claimed she was an alcoholic drug addict and transvestite. Yet her smile has never faltered.

With girl power at an all-time high, a timely tribute comes tomorrow in the form of the the first annual Barbie Convention at London's Royal Horticultural Halls.

Among those "Barbieing out" will be Pamela Furno, a leading light of the Collectors' Club of Great Britain. With more than 350 dolls, from vintage, to contemporary, to customised, she is ready to face Barbie's sternest critics. "With all the blood, guts and gore on the toy shelves, how can anyone think that an 11-inch vinyl doll is bad? In any case, she encourages girls to be well-turned out."

Perhaps she can also shed some light on the outlook for Barbie's long- suffering boyfriend, Ken, and the lengthiest engagement in history?

"Poor Ken," Furno says. "She's never married him, and we all know why. She prefers Action Man."

Royal Horticultural Halls, London SW1 (0171-834 4333) tomorrow from 10am. More info from Barbie Collectors' Club of Great Britain, PO Box 446, Wembley, Middx HA0 2BB

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