The Barbie doll line at Mattel has announced that they are launching its first doll with Down syndrome in an effort to help more children find a toy that helps them feel represented. The latest doll is part of the Mattel Barbie Fashionistas line and was brought to life in close partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).
The goal of the new doll is to help children feel like they are seen in this world while also helping other children learn to play with dolls that look different than themselves.
“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 & Dolls, Mattel, in a statement.
“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. 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.”
Barbie wanted to make sure that the doll accurately represented a person with Down syndrome. So, the company worked closely with NDSS, the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.
NDSS empowers individuals with Down syndrome and their families by providing resources, driving policy change, engaging with local communities.
With the help of NDSS’s guidance and real-world experience, Mattel made a doll that would immediately connect with the community, including the doll’s sculpt, clothing, accessories and packaging.
“It was an honor working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO.
“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.”
This doll introduces a new face and body sculpt to be more illustrative of women with Down syndrome, including a shorter frame and a longer torso. The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down syndrome, according to Mattel.
The doll’s puff sleeved dress pattern hold special meaning, featuring butterflies and yellow and blue colors, which are symbols and colors associated with Down syndrome awareness.
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 Down syndrome. The three arrows are a symbol that unites the Down syndrome community and are meant to represent “the lucky few” who have someone with Down syndrome in their life.
British model Ellie Goldstein — an advocate for inclusion, visibility and understanding of people with Down syndrome — shared a powerful message about the first-ever Barbie doll with Down syndrome.
In a heartwarming video she posted to Instagram, Goldstein gasped when she saw the doll for the first time. “I love it!” she exclaimed while giving the doll a tight squeeze.
“When I saw the doll, I felt so emotional and proud,” she wrote in the caption, “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.”
The newest addition to the Barbie Fashionista doll collection also wears pink ankle foot orthotics. Some children with Down syndrome use orthotics to support their feet and ankles. NDSS actually provided a box of orthotics to serve as real-life inspiration.
The 2023 Fashionistas dolls, including the Barbie doll with Down syndrome, are available for purchase from major retailers for $10.99 USD.