Mattel unveils Barbie doll with Down syndrome in diverse line-up

Posted 11 months ago by David McManus
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(Image source: Mattel, Inc)
(Image source: Mattel, Inc)

Toy company Mattel has announced a new Barbie doll modelled to represent a woman with Down syndrome, ahead of the upcoming Barbie (2023) film starring Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie.

Toy company Mattel has announced a new Barbie doll modelled to represent a woman with Down syndrome, ahead of the upcoming Barbie (2023) film starring Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie.

The diverse new line-up of dolls is a part of the company’s move to make sure that kids feel represented in the world of imagination, with the Down syndrome figure modelled in collaboration with the North American National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).

British model Ellie Goldstein, who lives with Down syndrome and has become well recognised for her advocacy and empowerment, warmly welcomed the new inclusion to the Barbie collection.

“When I saw the doll, I felt so emotional and proud,” Ellie said in an Instagram caption, adding “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”.

“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.”

Features commonly associated with Down syndrome were included into the design, with Mattel following the advice of the NDSS to include almond-shaped eyes, a shorter frame, longer torso, a flat nasal bridge and a single line across the palm of the hand.

Introduced in 1959, Barbie line of dolls has included more than 175 looks with different skin tones, hair textures, body sizes and dolls with different disabilities.

However, this newest doll is the first of its kind from Mattel to feature characteristics closely associated with Down syndrome.

The doll comes with a pink pendant necklace with three upward V-shaped lines, intended to highlight the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome to appear genetically.

The dress itself is coloured yellow and blue, which is the colour scheme of Down syndrome awareness.

The figure is a part of the 2022 Fashionistas launch, which saw the release of dolls with a range of disabilities, including dolls with prosthetics and dolls using wheelchairs.

Down Syndrome Australia (DSA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Daryl Steff, welcomed the release of a Barbie doll with Down syndrome, as he believes it contributes to better representation in a diverse society.

 “It is important for children, and their parents to see diversity in the toys they play with. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact this can have on people’s acceptance of diversity in the community,” said Mr Steff.

“We are pleased to see that Mattel had worked with the National Down Syndrome Society in the US to come up with the doll and that they have reflected many of the key characteristics of people with Down syndrome in the doll’s design, as well as key colours and relevant details.  

“Overall the design is reflective of the characteristics of someone with Down syndrome, whilst keeping within Barbie’s overall brand.”

Mattel’s global head of Barbie dolls at Mattel and company executive vice president, Lisa McKnight, said that the Barbie brand is making a statement about inclusion.

“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 Ms McKnight.