For the first time ever, children with Down syndrome will be able to play with a Barbie doll that looks like them.
The doll, part of the brand’s inclusive Fashionista line, was designed in collaboration with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). Barbie (a brand of Mattel Inc.) also consulted with individuals with Down syndrome, their families and a medical doctor to ensure that the doll represented the disorder accurately. The new doll has the shorter frame and longer torso that’s characteristic of people with Down syndrome as well as a round face, small ears, almond-shaped eyes and a nose with a flat bridge. The dolls also have palms with a single line, which is often seen on people with the chromosomal disorder.
“It was an honor working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome,” said Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO in a recent press release. “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.”
The new Fashionista Barbie comes outfitted with a blue and yellow dress with butterflies, colors and symbols representative of Down syndrome awareness. The doll wears a pink necklace with “three upward chevrons that represent the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome,” says Pickard.
To make Barbie with Down syndrome even more realistic, she wears ankle foot orthotics, just as many children with the disorder do.
Barbie’s Fashionista line is part of the company’s effort to be more inclusive. The line includes more than 175 dolls with diverse skin, hair and eye colors, body types, disabilities and fashion styles. Last May, Barbie announced that it would be adding more dolls with disabilities to its Fashionista line. Currently, Barbie sells dolls that use wheelchairs, dolls that wear hearing aids, dolls with alopecia, dolls with prosthetic limbs and dolls with vitiligo.
“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,” said Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls. “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.”
The new Barbie with Down syndrome will be available for purchase this summer and fall for $10.99.