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On April 25, 2023, Mattel unveiled the latest addition to their Barbie Fashionistas collection — a doll with Down syndrome. The world's largest toy maker hopes it will allow more children to connect with Barbie.
"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," said Mattel EVP Lisa McKnight.
What is Down syndrome?
All human cells contain thread-like structures known as chromosomes. They carry DNA, which controls how the body grows and functions. Each cell usually contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. But sometimes, there may be more. This results in a genetic condition. Down syndrome occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Children with Down syndrome typically reach developmental milestones — like walking and talking — a little later than most kids. They also share some physical features. These include a flattened face and almond-shaped eyes that slant upward.
The new Barbie
Mattel worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to ensure that the doll accurately represented a person with Down syndrome. Her rounder face, smaller ears, flat nasal bridge, and upward-slanted eyes are illustrative of people with the condition.
The new Barbie's blue and yellow dress is decorated with butterflies. It represents colors and symbols associated with Down syndrome awareness. The doll's pink pendant necklace features three inverted arrows. They symbolize the three chromosomes that cause the condition. The arrows also represent "the lucky few" who have someone with Down syndrome in their life.
The new Barbie doll is the latest in Mattel's efforts toward becoming the "most diverse doll line" in the market. Since 2016 the Barbie Fashionistas collection has grown to include 35 skin tones, 97 hairstyles, and nine body types. It also features a doll that uses a wheelchair, a doll with hearing aids, and a doll without hair.
Resources: theguardian.com, Mattel.Inc.. NDSS.org