Mattel has unveiled its first Barbie doll that represents a person with Down's syndrome.
As part of its Mattel Barbie Fashionistas line, the aim is to show children representations that are more diverse. Other dolls in the line include ones with a hearing aid, a prosthetic limb and using a wheelchair.
“As the most diverse doll line on the market, Barbie plays an important role in a child’s early experiences, and we are dedicated to doing our part to counter social stigma through play,” said Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel.
“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves. Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world." She added the company was "proud" of the doll that "better reflects the world around us".
Barbie worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society in the US to create the doll. The society offered guidance and help with the design process from start to finish.
This includes sculpting the face and body, adding fashion and accessories (including the colours yellow and blue, which are associated with Down's syndrome awareness) and the inclusion of pink ankle foot orthotics that are sometimes worn by children to support their feet and ankles. She also wears a pink pendant necklace with three arrows that represent the third 21st chromosome that individuals with Down's syndrome have.
“It was an honour working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down's syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, president and chief executive of the society. “This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them. This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”
Over the past few years, Mattel has aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity. In 2020, the company unveiled a doll with vitiligo, a condition in which a person's skin loses pigment, typically in patches, and another with the hair-loss condition alopecia.
The National has reached out to Mattel for details of the doll's UAE release.