Barbie® Introduces Its First Doll with Down Syndrome, Further Increasing Representation in the Toy Aisle
Released as part of this year’s global Barbie Fashionistas lineup to allow even more children to find a Barbie doll that represents them
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., April 25th, 2023 – Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) announced today the addition of a Barbie doll with Down syndrome, created to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie, as well as have Barbie reflect the world around them. The Barbie doll with Down syndrome is meant to inspire all children to tell more stories through play.
“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. “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.”
To ensure the doll accurately represents a person with Down syndrome, Barbie worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). NDSS empowers individuals with Down syndrome and their families by providing resources, driving policy change, engaging with local communities. NDSS’s guidance and real-world experiences informed the design process from start to finish, including the doll’s sculpt, clothing, accessories and packaging. The close partnership ensured the Barbie team celebrated individuals with Down syndrome through a doll that would immediately connect with the community.
“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.”
Counseled by NDSS, Barbie was purposeful with every design choice for the doll, including:
- Sculpt: 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 new face sculpt features a rounder shape, smaller ears, and a flat nasal bridge, while the eyes are slightly slanted in an almond shape. The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down syndrome.1
- Fashion & Accessories: The doll’s puff sleeved dress pattern features 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 chevrons, or 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.
- Orthotics: The Barbie Fashionista doll with Down syndrome also wears pink ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) to match her outfit and her sneakers tout a zipper detail. Some children with Down syndrome use orthotics to support their feet and ankles, and NDSS provided a box of orthotics to serve as real-life inspiration for the ones this Barbie Fashionista is wearing, matched to her outfit and the bright colors in her design.
Children’s early experiences help shape their thoughts and perceptions – and Barbie can play an important role in this process. When a child plays with Barbie, they play out their dreams and imagine they can be anything. Doll play has an incredible purpose during key developmental stages as it may help set children on a course for success by allowing them to develop empathy fueling social skills needed to excel as they imagine their futures with an equal playing field2. The Barbie doll with Down syndrome allows more children to see themselves in Barbie as well as the world around them, which can help foster a sense of inclusivity.
Barbie is the most inclusive doll line on the market – with over 175 looks offering a variety of eye colors, hair colors and textures, body types, disabilities and fashions to tell more stories. Barbie has introduced dolls with vitiligo, dolls that use a wheelchair or a prosthetic limb, a doll with hearing aids and a doll without hair. This year, Barbie is continuing to represent global belonging and inclusivity with the full 2023 Fashionistas lineup, which also includes new dolls in a variety of body types including a new Fashionista doll wearing braces and a Ken Fashionista doll with a prosthetic leg.
The 2023 Fall Fashionistas dolls, including the Barbie doll with Down syndrome, are available in limited quantities online now and in store this Summer and Fall at major retailers for $10.99 USD.
1The Barbie doll with Down syndrome’s physical features were reviewed by a medical professional.
2 Exploring the Benefits of Doll Play through Neuroscience, commissioned by Barbie in partnership with Cardiff University
Mattel is a leading global toy company and owner of one of the strongest catalogs of children’s and family entertainment franchises in the world. We create innovative products and experiences that inspire, entertain, and develop children through play. We engage consumers through our portfolio of iconic brands, including Barbie®, Hot Wheels®, Fisher-Price®, American Girl®, Thomas & Friends®, UNO®, Masters of the Universe®, Monster High® and MEGA®, as well as other popular intellectual properties that we own or license in partnership with global entertainment companies. Our offerings include film and television content, gaming and digital experiences, music, and live events. We operate in 35 locations and our products are available in more than 150 countries in collaboration with the world’s leading retail and ecommerce companies. Since its founding in 1945, Mattel is proud to be a trusted partner in empowering children to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. Visit us online at mattel.com.
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is 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, and shaping public perceptions. Founded in 1979, NDSS supports and advocates for the Down syndrome community by focusing on three key areas of programming: Resources & Support, Policy & Advocacy and Community Engagement. Within these focus areas NDSS engages in various activities, events and programs on topics that are critical to our community such as federal and state advocacy and public policy, health and wellness, education and employment. NDSS creates resources to support individuals with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers across the lifespan and hosts community events throughout the country including the National Buddy Walk® Program, the Times Square Video presentation and New York City Buddy Walk®, Racing for 3.21 for World Down Syndrome Day, Run for 3.21, and various other events. Visit www.ndss.org for more information.