Barbie introduces its first doll with Down syndrome

With the addition of a doll with Down syndrome characteristics, the Barbie collection is increasing representation in the toy aisle.

This week, Mattel, Inc. announced a new addition to the world of Barbie — a Barbie doll with Down syndrome. Crafted with the intention of expanding representation and inclusivity, the new doll embraces the brand’s mission for Barbie to better reflect the world around us. 

Barbie down syndrome doll, Barbie 2023 Fashionista lineup,
Barbie’s 2023 Fashionista lineup allows children to find a Barbie doll that represents them. (Credit: Mattel)

“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 in a press release. 

Ultimately, the intention behind the new doll is not only to empower children who will see themselves represented but for others to play with dolls that may not look like them. McKnight believes a child’s interaction with dolls outside their own lived experience can lead to more empathetic attitudes, thus creating a more accepting and understanding world. 

Barbie worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to ensure the doll authentically represented individuals with Down syndrome. NDSS, an organization dedicated to empowering individuals with Down syndrome and their families through resources, policy change, and community engagement, provided guidance and real-world experiences throughout the design process of the doll, which allowed Barbie to create a doll that celebrates and resonates with the Down syndrome community. 

From its silhouette to its clothing and more, Barbie made intentional design choices for its newest doll. In addition to the doll’s rounder face shape, flat nasal bridge, and smaller ears, the doll’s palms feature a single line, a “characteristic often associated with those with Down syndrome,” according to the press release. Similarly, the doll comes dressed in a yellow and blue butterfly-patterned dress, the colors and symbols of Down syndrome awareness. To match her ensemble, the doll comes with a pink pendant necklace featuring three upwards arrows, another symbol that unites the Down syndrome community, meant “to represent ‘the lucky few’ who have someone with Down syndrome in their life.”

“This means so much for our community, who, for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them,” said Kandi Pickard, NDSS president and CEO, in a press release. “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 doll is part of Barbie’s 2023 Fashionista lineup, which showcases a diverse range of body types and disabilities. The 2023 Fall Fashionistas collection is available in limited quantities online now and at major retailers this summer and fall for $10.99.

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