Toy brand Mattel has demonstrated its commitment to inclusion with the release of its first-ever Barbie with Down syndrome, announced yesterday.
Created with the help of the US National Down Syndrome Society, the doll is designed to resemble someone born with the condition.
Since unveiling the first Barbie in 1959, the California toymaker has been looking for ways to innovate and represent more children around the world, especially through its inclusive doll line, Fashionistas.
In 2022, Mattel made headlines when it launched its first-ever doll with pink hearing aids, citing the importance for children to feel ‘reflected’ in the dolls they play with, and to encourage children to play with toys that are not looks like them to help them ‘understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion’.
Mattel released several permanent disability dolls in 2019 after collaborating with teen activist Jordan Reeves, and new additions then included a Barbie in a wheelchair. Meanwhile in 2021, a black doll with afro hair became the brand’s worldwide bestseller.
In 2020, the brand also included a Barbie with the skin condition known as vitiligo, followed by a Ken version, as well as a doll with a prosthetic leg.
The manufacturer explained at the time that they hoped the doll would “enable children to act out even more stories they see in the world around them.”
The doll was designed with the help of the US National Down Syndrome Society. The blue and yellow colors of her dress are associated with DS awareness, and her ankle-foot orthotics are worn by many people living with the condition
The brand’s very first Barbie with hearing aids (pictured) was released in 2022, alongside a Barbie with a prosthetic leg and the first Ken doll with vitiligo. Mattel created the Barbie with bright pink hearing aids with the help of Dr. Jen Richardson, an expert in educational audiology, who advised how to accurately replicate the devices for the doll
The California-based doll manufacturer introduced a Vitiligo doll and a doll with a prosthetic leg in 2020 to be more inclusive. A prototype doll debuted on Barbie’s Instagram channel @BarbieStyle in 2019, becoming the channel’s most liked post ever with 152,367 likes. After its online success, Mattel added the vitiligo Barbie to its collection, followed by a Ken doll with vitiligo
A Barbie in a wheelchair was introduced in 2019 after Mattel teamed up with teen activist Jordan Reeves. According to the company, the two best-selling Barbie Fashionista dolls in the UK in 2019 were those in wheelchairs
The Barbie with prosthetic leg was rolled out in 2020 and exists in different skin colors. Since its release, the toy brand has rolled out themed Barbies with prosthetic legs, like career dolls wearing the prosthetic. Left in the photo: a black Barbie. Right: interior designer Barbie with prosthetic leg
The fashionista line also includes dolls with different skin colors and body types. The curvy Barbie, pictured, rolled out in 2016 with two other body types: tall and petite, as well as the original body type. The doll was intended to represent more “realistic” body types for young people. At the time, the new dolls came with the tagline, “Imagination comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s why the world of Barbie is evolving’
The range released in 2020 included an Asian Barbie dressed to the nines. Mattel’s inclusive campaign has thrived over the past five years and now saw Mattel offer Barbie dolls available in five body types, 22 skin tones, 76 hairstyles, 94 hair colors and 13 eye colors
Kens with more different skin tones (left) are also available as part of the fashionista line. In 2020, the brand introduced a bald Barbie, left. Mattel said it “reflected hair trends from catwalk to sidewalk” at the time, adding that kids experiencing hair loss could see themselves in line.
In 2022, when it released its very first Barbie with hearing aids, the brand also introduced a new Ken doll with vitiligo, two years after introducing the female version of the doll to the public.
The range has also introduced several Ken dolls over the years, including a new model with long blond hair. A ginger Ken is also available, right? Ken dolls come in four body types, 18 sculptures, 13 skin tones, 9 eye colors and 22 hair colors
The fashionista line, which aims to represent as many realistic types as possible, has also included a Barbie wearing braces, something many children and adults around the world will have to endure. The doll was introduced as part of Mattel’s efforts to champion diversity
The Barbie is part of the Fashionista lines, which include a Ken with a prosthetic leg and dolls of different ethnicities and body shapes
In 2020, the black curvy Barbie with afro hair was Mattel’s best-selling doll in the Fashionistas range, which also includes a redheaded Barbie, left, and a redheaded Ken.