Mattel Debuts a Barbie With Down Syndrome

Mattel's latest Barbie offering.
Mattel's latest Barbie offering. / Mattel

Barbie may be a bestselling and iconic toy with a major summer movie in the wings, but not everyone can identify with the bubbly fashionista. Mattel is looking to change that, introducing a series of Barbie variants over the years. Their latest: a doll with Down syndrome.

According to a press release, the toy company partnered with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to develop a doll that’s respectful and representative of those in the Down syndrome community. Her figure has been modified to have a longer torso, while her face displays characteristics of those with the condition.

There are more subtle details, too. The doll features a single crease in her plastic hands, a little-known trait of those with the genetic condition. The yellow and blue colors of her dress are the same as those representing Down syndrome awareness, while her necklace refers to the three 21st chromosomes, the genetic material prompting Down syndrome traits. She also sports orthopedic shoes.

“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,” Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls, said in a statement. “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.”

Down syndrome affects roughly one in every 772 babies born in the United States; people with the condition have a full or partial extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Down syndrome was named for English physician John Langdon Down, who provided early research into the condition in the 1800s.

Previously, Mattel has introduced Barbies with vitiligo, prosthetic limbs, and hearing aids to better represent consumers with a variety of unique characteristics. This Barbie is part of Mattel’s Fall Fashionistas line, which features a diverse cast that includes a Barbie with braces. They can be found this summer and fall for $10.99.

[h/t NPR]