Meet the all-blinging, all-dancing hip-hop doll for hip six-year-olds

They wear miniskirts, bra tops and "bling-bling" jewellery over tattooed bodies - but the bad news for parents is that they are to become role models for thousands of six-year-olds.

This week, the toy manufacturer Mattel - the company that brought us squeaky-clean Barbie - will launch its latest range of dolls. But in a move set to cause consternation among parents, the "Flavas" - with their hair extensions, make-up and piercings - would be more at home in the ghetto than the playroom. They're hip-hop toys for little girls.

The Flavas are Mattel's attempt to tap into the increasing popularity of hip-hop and R'n'B culture.

With the toy industry's Christmas season about to begin, Mattel is confident Flavas will hold their own against the more traditional toys, such as My Little Pony.

Julia Jensen, from Mattel, said: "Our research told us that a lot of young girls are now aspiring to the world of rap and hip-hop music.

The six dolls, known as "the crew", will be targeted at six- to 10-year-olds. Each comes with accessories including ghetto blasters, mobile phones, record bags and stick-on tattoos. One character, "Tré", is a black tracksuited doll in the "P. Diddy" mould - with goatee beard, string vest and diamond earrings.

The range will be officially launched on Wednesday by Mis-Teeq, the hip-hop group.

The success of the dolls will be watched closely by the British Association of Toy Retailers. Val Stedham, the association's chairman, said the launch of Flavas spoke volumes about the current generation of children.

"Kids are getting older younger," she said. "Mattel can't afford to stand still, and if Barbie isn't fitting in with the desire of an eight-year-old girl, they have to do something about it. I'd like to be more moralistic about some of these things, but this is what the kids want."

John Baulch, publisher of industry magazine Toys and Playthings, saidthe risqué nature of these dolls would guarantee their success.

"Kids today are becoming a lot more conscious of fashion at a younger age," he said. "Everything has to have 'attitude'. Parents might not like the dolls, but that will make them appeal to children even more."

Dr John Richer, a clinical child psychologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, disagreed. "This has the same sort of flavour as beauty contests in America where little kids get dolled up as teenagers."

Nevada Summerley, nine, from Wandsworth, south-west London, said: "I like the way they have realistic clothes. Barbies wear fancy, fluffy dresses, not T-shirts and jeans like real people. They look how I'd like to look when I grow up."

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