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How the First-ever Barbie with Down Syndrome launched by Mattel stands as the epitome of the new wave of ‘Inclusivity’.

Barbie, the word that resonates with the idea of a blonde, slim, white doll, launched its “most inclusive doll ever”. The American toy company Mattel introduced its first Barbie with Down syndrome, keeping inclusivity as its prime motive. The doll is part of the 2023 Barbie Fashionistas collection, which also features a Barbie with a curvy body and a Ken with a prosthetic leg.

Mattel said that it closely worked with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in creating a doll that accurately represents a person with the spectrum disorder. Kandi Piccard, the NDSS president, and CEO, commented, “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.”

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition in which people are born with an extra chromosome. This affects their body and brain development. The physical characteristics of the person with the syndrome were accurately represented by the doll. The new doll has a rounder shape, almond-shaped eyes, smaller ears, and a flat nasal bridge, which are some of the common characteristics of the genetic syndrome. “The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down’s syndrome’, Mattel exclaimed.

The doll wears a beautiful puff-sleeved frock with butterflies and flowers in blue and yellow, which are symbols and colors associated with Down syndrome awareness. The doll also seems to rock a pair of orthotic sneakers, which are usually worn by people with the syndrome. The pink necklace with three upward chevrons representing the three copies of the 21st chromosome is a clear example proving that Mattel has clearly understood the assignment of representation.
Since its release in 1959, the iconic doll line has come a long way. Though there were other African American dolls in the Barbie collection before, the first official African American Barbie was released in 1980 alongside a Hispanic one. Forty other international dolls were also released in the same year. This can be regarded as the first step the company has taken towards inclusivity. The bald doll, first manufactured by the company in 2012, is also worth a mention. The most significant step was taken in 2016 with the ‘Barbie Fashionistas’ collection. The dolls represented four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles.

Barbie is often perceived as a white woman with a snatched waistline, long legs, and blonde hair. The doll line was also accused of promoting unrealistic beauty standards and being non-inclusive. It is remarkable to see how this culturally significant doll line is stepping towards a better world of “inclusivity”. Kids now get to play with dolls that look like them. Mattle’s initiative to challenge the unrealistic beauty standards is truly commendable.

A similar trend of inclusivity is also seen on the runway. More plus-sized and unique models can be spotted strutting on the runway of major fashion houses. Makeup brands like Fenty Beauty, have been producing more makeup shades to fit all skin tones. Fashion and lingerie stores have also been taking note of the new wave of ‘inclusivity’. Stores that previously did not cater to the needs of the plus-sized are now having almost every piece of clothing available in all sizes. It is safe to say that ‘Inclusivity’ has become one of the main goals of the commercial world.

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