The toy manufacturer Mattel is crushing the stereotype that Barbie dolls promote unrealistic body image and lack diversity.
Mattel announced the new Barbie during the New York Toy Fair in February 2019 and officially released her in June as part of its Fashionistas Line, which includes 40 dolls with a range of body types, hair color, skin tone, and eye color. On Thursday, a photo of the doll went viral after one Twitter user raved about her — and the doll has since received majority positive support.
"This year our Barbie line will include dolls reflecting physical disabilities in order to better represent the people and the world kids see around them," Global Head of Design for Barbie, Kim Culmone said in a statement released to Global Citizen.
Consulting firm Global Disability Inclusion is excited to see Mattel introduce a Barbie that is a wheelchair user and a person of color, President Meg O’Connell said.
“Representation matters,” O’Connell told Global Citizen. “Everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and ability wants to see themselves represented, and more importantly included in the world around them. Disability is diversity."
#Barbie has a new doll! She’s Black, wears naturally curly hair, and in a wheelchair. This is the representation children need to see. THIS is inclusion! 💗👧🏾 #BlackGirlMagic#DiversityMatters— A N G E L A | R Y E (@angela_rye) July 1, 2019
Source: The Insider pic.twitter.com/POQiYTmlSq
Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization that aims to help hospitalized children and their families, inspired the idea for the new Barbie, according to Insider. Mattel designed her with real girls and wheelchairs in mind — her wheelchair is for everyday use rather than a model usually found in hospitals. Toys “R” Us Canada will donate a portion of the Barbie’s sales to a Canadian chapter of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
The new doll also comes with a ramp so that she can access the Barbie Dreamhouse. Mattel received backlash after it discontinued the first Barbies who used wheelchairs because they didn’t fit into the Barbie Dreamhouse.
"As we design Barbie for the next generation, we are focused on evolving to remain the most diverse doll line in the marketplace," Culmone said.
Nearly one-fifth of all Americans — more than 54 million men, women, and children — have a physical, sensory, or intellectual disability, and more companies like Mattel are making an effort to represent them positively and accurately. In 2016, the construction toy brand Lego introduced a boy figure who uses a wheelchair, and in 2013, Toys “R” Us added a line of dolls whose accessories include wheelchairs and crutches.
This is AMAZING, INSPIRING, DIVERSIFYING AND VALIDATING the importance and significance of INCLUSION!! Hats off to the Designers, Executives,Staff and distributors of at @Mattel— Titus O'Neil (@TitusONeilWWE) June 28, 2019
THIS IS INCREDIBLE ❤️I know A Few families that will be getting their first Wheelchair Black @Barbiehttps://t.co/AL32w94TTtpic.twitter.com/9FxlF6lJaV
Creating toys like the Barbie who is a wheelchair user doesn’t only benefit children with disabilities — it normalizes disabilities to create a more inclusive society for all.
"Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is a critical component of our design process and we are proud that today’s kids will know a different image and experience of the brand," Culmone said.
*This post has been updated to include a comment from Mattel.