Barbie can be anyone: a girl with Down’s syndrome, a judge, and an Indian with jhumkas and bangles. Since the doll debuted at the New York Toy Fair in 1959, she has donned many avatars, most recently keeping diversity and inclusion in mind
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French City Counsellor & Author Eleonore Laloux holds the new Barbie doll with Down’s syndrome, in Paris, France. Reuters
If you played with Barbie when you were younger, you are aware of her evolutionary journey.
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The doll, which was first recognised for its distinctive blonde hair, slender frame, and white skin, has developed to be more inclusive by bringing a variety of skin tones to a healthy physique.
Ever since her debut at the New York Toy Fair in 1959, she has donned many avatars.
As a part of this year’s Fashionistas line, the brand just debuted the first Barbie with Down’s syndrome.
April 2023 – Barbie with Down’s syndrome
Toymaker Mattel announced on Tuesday that the first-ever Barbie doll with Down syndrome has been released.
The doll’s outfit has butterflies and the colours yellow and blue, which are used to raise awareness of Down syndrome.
The three copies of the 21st chromosome are symbolised with a pendant necklace with three chevrons, among other accessories.
Ankle-foot orthotics, which many kids with Down syndrome utilise for support, are also included with the doll.
To guarantee that the doll authentically depicted a person with Down syndrome, the business developed a tight working relationship with the National Down Syndrome Society.
Kandi Pickard, NDSS president and CEO, in a press release, said, “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.”
2023 – Fashionistas line-up
Besides Barbie with Down syndrome, the Fashionistas line-up for this year includes new dolls wearing braces and a Ken with a prosthetic leg.
Lots of good things about this, but maybe more body shape diversity @Mattel ? Mattel takes new strides towards diversity with latest Barbie Fashionistas line-up – ToyNews https://t.co/g1YBX3AE4S pic.twitter.com/MoJ4XjnPL0— umbrelladata (@umbrelladata) February 3, 2020
“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,” Economic Times quoted Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and global head of Barbie & Dolls at Mattel, as saying.
January 2023 – Barbie with scoliosis, Chelsea
The company unveiled their first scoliosis doll, which included a removable back brace and a curvature of the spine.
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It was designed to normalise the use of the equipment and inspire kids to celebrate inclusion.
Barbie doll with #scoliosis unveiled as toy company aims to highlight the 'power of representation' @Barbie @ScoliosisUK @SupportBelfast @SRS_org @SBH_PAG @TheCurvySpines @CappaghHospFoun @childreninhosp @CHIatCrumlin @TempleStreetHos @dr_aisling @drmikeselby pic.twitter.com/DfCTGY9eDh— The Scoliosis Advocacy Network (@scolionetwork) February 2, 2023
May 2022 – First transgender Barbie
The first-ever transgender Barbie was inspired by Laverne Cox, an Emmy winner and the first transgender woman of colour to play a major character in a scripted television series.
She expressed her joy at the moment in a video by saying, “Now kids get to dream with a Laverne Cox barbie, the first transgender Barbie.”
Mattel has collaborated with actress Laverne Cox to release the first transgender Barbie doll in their collection. pic.twitter.com/oUoObkzcZu— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) June 2, 2022
August 2022 – Doll with hearing aids
The American doll manufacturer released set of dolls with hearing aids with an aim to help kids “see themselves reflected,” according to McKnight.
Dr Jen Richardson, a well-known expert in educational audiology, was consulted by the business to help correctly replicate behind-the-ear devices for the Barbie with hearing aids, reported CNN.
Rose's BBC Breakfast video talking about the new Barbie doll with hearing aids. [Captioned] pic.twitter.com/VXvjkMX02b— 𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐞 💛 (@cathsgifs) August 16, 2022
2019-2020 – Diverse Fashionistas doll
The 2020 collection also featured several dolls from the previous lines such as doll with a wheelchair, due to its popularity.
Barbie is for everyone 💕 As our most inclusive and diverse doll line, Barbie Fashion Dolls are constantly redefining what it means to look like and be Barbie. #Barbie #Doll #BarbieDoll #Fashionistas #Fashion #BarbieFashionistas #BarbieFashionistasDoll #FashionistasDoll #Ken pic.twitter.com/7wwbkz5jtg— Maripaz (@winxclubpretty) April 25, 2023
2019 – Gender-inclusive Barbie dolls
To be inclusive of all genders and free from labels, Mattel introduced a range of dolls that children may dress in either a skirt or pants or both, short or long hair or both.
2017 – First Barbie with a hijab
According to BBC, the first hijab-wearing Barbie was inspired by American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal in Rio Olympics in 2016.
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“When I think about my own journey, me being a Muslim girl involved in the sport of fencing, there were people who made me feel like I didn’t belong. For all those people who didn’t believe in me, this Barbie doll is for you,” Muhammad had said at the time.
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The Barbie doll was unveiled at Glamour’s Women of the Year summit.
Yesterday, history was made when Mattel announced the first Barbie with a hijab.— Bad,Baby (@badbabyproducts) November 14, 2017
Ibtihaj Muhammad said “I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear a hijab! This is a childhood dream come true” pic.twitter.com/Lsvj4Ptvun
2016 – Curvy, petite and tall Barbie
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Expanding its Fashionistas line, the brand introduced three new body types: tall, curvy and petite with diverse skin tones and hair textures.
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According to Time magazine, Mattel hoped that the new body types “will more closely reflect their young owners’ world.”
2000 – ‘Princess of India’ Barbie
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The ‘Princess of India’ Barbie featured the doll wearing an extraordinary pink sari with golden accents.
A golden headpiece called a tikka (a forehead ornament), a golden choker and earrings were added to enhance the look.
💫Princess of India💫— Doll Of The Day 💖 (@DollOfTheDay) April 15, 2021
Line: Dolls of the World- the Princess Collection
📸= Official pic.twitter.com/WnQ7n2HgBb
1992 – First President Barbie
Continuing to improve, Barbie released a set of US president and vice president dolls in 1992.
Making a strategic move to attract focus on its all-female Barbie dolls, it aimed at “inspiring girls to become leaders.”
1980 – African-American Barbie dolls
Mattel’s first African-American Barbie, designed by Bill Greening, became available for purchase in 1980.
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“I hope people feel that it’s a fitting tribute to the original … I hope I’m doing the doll justice, and I hope collectors embrace the new doll. I hope maybe they display it side by side with the original and the new version and see how the beauty of Black Barbie transcends time,” Greening said in a Mattel statement.
1968 – One of the first Black Barbie dolls, Christie
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Mattel first attempted to make the first “black” Barbie in 1967 with “Coloured Francie,” however, it was a mere replica of her white counterparts.
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The company then introduced Christie in 1968 with same body type, allowing their clothing to be worn interchangeably.
Her face, however, was a novel creation meant to emphasise a Black woman’s facial traits.
Christie was one of several dolls who could talk.
People saying there was no Black Barbie’s or it wasn’t a thing for little Black girls culturally is why so many things accredited as “white people shit” actually isn’t and y’all give ‘em too much cred. Just cause you aren’t familiar with something don’t mean it’s not us 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/EDlEky7gJP— CYBERGURL 👩🏾💻🕯️✨ (@HipHopAndHoodoo) April 7, 2023
1967 – First celebrity Barbie
The British fashion model Twiggy served as the inspiration for the first celebrity Barbie doll, according to Barbie Media.
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The first Twiggy doll featured the recognisable Twiggy makeup and sported a mini-dress with vertical blue, green, and yellow stripes as well as yellow footwear.
She was the first in a long line of dolls created to mimic famous people and the top of the fashion world.
1965 – Astronaut Barbie
Barbie ventured into space in 1965, four years before humans set foot on the moon.
The Astronaut Barbie demonstrated to girls that they could reach for the stars while wearing a stylish space suit and helmet.
Miss Astronaut Barbie 1965— J.Renyart (@JTNostalgique) February 10, 2018
1959 – First Barbie
The first Barbie had her trademark hair and a black and white striped bathing suit.
Barbie was different from the baby and toddler dolls that were popular at the time, so toy consumers were hesitant to buy.
However, the doll went on to become a global sensation, letting girls have the most vivid future fantasies ever.