Mattel launched the first Barbie doll portraying an individual with Down syndrome, aiming “to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie,” according to the company.
Lisa McKnight, the Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls at Mattel, stated, “We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play.”
Historically, Mattel’s Barbie has faced criticism for promoting unattainable beauty ideals for children playing with the doll. In recent times, the company has shifted from this image by providing a wider range of diverse dolls.
Barbie and Ken dolls now include wheelchairs, vitiligo, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs. The “most diverse doll line” was unveiled in the 2023 Fashionistas lineup, featuring the Down syndrome doll.
McKnight explained, “Our goal is for children to see themselves in Barbie, and learn empathy by playing with dolls of diverse appearances.”
In collaboration with the National Down Syndrome Society, Barbie ensured an accurate portrayal of a person with Down syndrome.
This included designing the doll’s body with a shorter frame, longer torso, round face, smaller ears, and almond-shaped, slanted eyes, as described by NDSS in their announcement.
The doll is dressed in a yellow and blue outfit adorned with butterflies, which are symbols linked to Down syndrome awareness, as per NDSS.
The doll’s pink necklace is also meaningful, with three upward chevrons representing “the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome,” according to the organization.
Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO, expressed in the group’s statement, “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.”
Ellie Goldstein, a British model with Down Syndrome, partnered with Mattel to share her thoughts on the doll’s significance on Instagram.
She wrote, “When I saw the doll I felt so emotional, and proud. It means a lot to me that children will be able to play with the doll and learn that everyone is different. I am proud that Barbie chose me to show the dolls to the world.”
“Diversity is important as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away, Barbie will help make this happen,” she added.
The Down syndrome Barbie doll will be accessible at major retailers in the summer and fall, retailing for $10.99 (THB 376).