The first Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome was released by Mattel “to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie,” the company said.
“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,” Lisa McKnight, the executive vice president and global head of Barbie & dolls at Mattel, said in a statement.
In the past, Mattel’s Barbie has been criticized for spreading unrealistic beauty standards for the children who play with the doll. In recent years, the company has moved to deviate from that reputation by offering more diverse dolls. It started making Barbie and Ken dolls with wheelchairs, vitiligo, hearing aids, and prosthetic limbs. The company unveiled its “most diverse doll line” in its 2023 Fashionistas lineup, which includes the doll with Down syndrome.
“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,” McKnight said.
Barbie worked with the National Down Syndrome Society in order to accurately represent a person with Down syndrome. That included shaping the doll’s body to include a shorter frame and longer torso and a round face that features smaller ears and almond-shaped, slanted eyes, the NDSS said in their announcement.
The doll wears a yellow and blue dress with butterflies, all symbols associated with Down syndrome awareness, according to NDSS.
Even the doll’s pink necklace has special meaning. Its three upward chevrons are meant to represent “the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome,” according to the organization.
NDSS President and CEO Kandi Pickard said 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, took to Instagram in a partnership with Mattel to share how important seeing the doll was to her.
“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,” she wrote on Instagram. “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.”
The Barbie doll with Down syndrome will be available at major retailers this summer and fall for $10.99.