Barbie doll with Down’s syndrome launched by Mattel

Firm partnered with US charity and medical experts to create part of ‘most diverse and inclusive doll line’

Barbie is launching its first doll with Down’s syndrome in an effort to help more children find a toy that represents them.

Mattel bosses said they wanted to bring out the doll to “enable all children to see themselves in Barbie”. They partnered with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in the US to bring the product to market.

The move was welcomed by charities, with Carol Boys, chief executive of the UK Down’s Syndrome Association, saying: “Children in our community will be able to play with a doll that represents them.”

Ellie Goldstein, a British model with Down’s syndrome who has appeared in a campaign with the new Barbie, said she was “so happy” to see the new doll. She added: “Diversity is important to me as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away.”

Mattel said it consulted the NDSS and medical professionals to inform the design process, introducing a new face and body sculpt to be more illustrative of women with Down’s syndrome, including a shorter frame and a longer torso.

Guided by the NDSS, the doll’s pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with the condition.

The chevrons, or arrows, represent “the Lucky Few” who have someone with Down’s syndrome in their life.

Dolls from the Barbie Fashionistas line.
Dolls from the Barbie Fashionistas line. Photograph: Jason Tidwell/Mattel

It will go on pre-order from Tuesday from the toy store Smyths. The doll is part of the Barbie Fashionistas line, which was launched in 2022. It also features a Barbie with a prosthetic leg, a Barbie who uses a wheelchair, and male dolls that are thinner and less muscular.

Mattel has described this collection as its “most diverse and inclusive doll line, offering a variety of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and textures, body types, disabilities and fashions, to inspire even more stories”.

In recent years, Mattel has launched more inclusive Barbie lines, including one inspired by real-life women who have upended societal norms. In 2017, it released a doll wearing a hijab, modelled on Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who became the first American to compete and win an Olympic medal wearing the garment.

“It was an honour working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down’s syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, the NDSS president and chief executive. “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.”

The doll’s puff-sleeved dress pattern features butterflies and yellow and blue colours, which are symbols associated with Down’s syndrome awareness.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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