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Mattel Releases Its First Barbie With Down Syndrome

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In another sign that disability representation is entering the mainstream, Barbie has released its first doll representing a person with Down syndrome.

Designed in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the new Barbie is the latest edition to the Mattel brand’s Fashionistas line, which features a range of diverse dolls. This year’s collection also includes a Barbie with braces and a Ken doll with a prosthetic leg.

The Down syndrome doll is a milestone in the 64-year history of Barbie, which recently has been on a mission to become more inclusive across its products.

“We have been on a journey for about eight years now to modernize the Barbie brand,” Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel, told Adweek. “We want to ensure that the product line is reflective of the world that the kids see around them.” 

The brand’s introduction of a Down syndrome Barbie was more than a year in the making. Working with “a reputable organization to guide us” helped ensure “the execution was as authentic as it possibly could be,” McKnight added.

Design specifics for the doll include a face and body sculpt reflective of women with Down syndrome. McKnight explained that the brand wanted not only to capture the physical characteristics of the community but also to “do some storytelling in the product and spark conversation.” She cited the Barbie’s yellow and blue butterfly dress symbolizing the colors associated with Down syndrome, a pink pendant featuring “upward chevrons” to represent the 21st chromosome of the genetic material associated with the condition, and the ankle foot orthotics (leg braces) used by some children in the community.

“This means so much for our community, who for the first time can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them,” NDSS president and CEO Kandi Pickard said in a statement. “It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”

To promote the launch, Barbie released a video of children with Down syndrome and their parents seeing the doll for the first time.

McKnight said that while only one style of the doll was launched for the time being, she sees “limitless possibilities” of expanding to include more ethnicities and a Ken version.

The collection includes a range of more diverse and inclusive dolls.Mattel

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