Mattel Unveils First Barbie Doll Representing A Person With Down’s Syndrome

As part of its’ new Barbie Fashionistas line, Mattel has unveiled it’s first-ever version of Barbie representing a person who has Down’s syndrome. The new Barbie Fashionista’s line is aimed to offer children more diverse representations of beauty and battle any stigmas surrounding physical disabilities.

Other Barbie dolls that have been previously represented in the Fashionista’s line include a doll with hearing aids, one with a prosthetic leg, one with the vitiligo skin condition and a doll in a wheelchair.

Mattel says, they worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society on the doll’s shape, features, clothing, accessory and packaging to ensure that it accurately represents a person with Down syndrome. The genetic condition affects cognitive ability, causing mild to severe learning disabilities and distinctive facial characteristics.

“This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them,” Kandi Pickard, NDSS president and CEO said in a 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.”

Mattel has faced a level of scrutiny of the years because of the Barbie dolls unrealistic body style and proportions, claiming that the doll was an unrealistic role model for young children and showcased unrealistic beauty standards. The Barbie doll made its’ debut in 1959 and it was not until 2016, when sales began to drop that Mattel made the decision to create dolls that were more inclusive and diverse.  Barbie was reintroduced in four body types and seven skin tones, with 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. Her evolution continues with Barbie Fashionistas, which came three years later.

Mattel goes on to say that the newest Barbie Fashionista doll with Down’s syndrome has been reviewed by a medical professional and features a new face and body sculpt illustrative of women with Down syndrome, including a shorter frame and a longer torso. The face features a rounder shape, smaller ears, a flat nasal bridge, while the eyes are slightly slanted in an almond shape.

Its palms include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down syndrome, according to Mattel. The new Barbie wears a pink ankle foot orthotics to match her dress and her sneakers feature a zipper to represent children with Down syndrome, some of whom use orthotics to support their feet and ankles. The new Barbie’s puff sleeved dress pattern features butterflies and yellow and blue colors, which are symbols and colors associated with Down syndrome awareness.

And the doll’s pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons, a symbol that unites the Down syndrome community, represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated 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,” Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s executive vice president and global head of barbie & dolls, said in a statement.

McKnight said Mattel’s goal with the doll is to “counter social stigma through play.”

“Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy…. 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,” she said.

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