Barbies with vitiligo and no hair feature in Mattel's "most diverse doll line"

Rebranding itself as the "most diverse doll line" on the market, the company has released a wide range of new dolls featuring varying body types, skin tones, and hairstyles.

Cover Image Source: Twitter/Barbie

Formerly criticized for promoting a narrow, unrealistic ideal of beauty, Barbie has been on a determined path to redemption for the past five years. Rebranding itself as the "most diverse doll line" on the market, the company released a wide range of new dolls featuring varying body types, skin tones, and hairstyles. On Tuesday, Mattel—the maker of the popular dolls—unveiled the latest additions to the Barbie Fashionistas line, revealing a doll with vitiligo, another with no hair, and one sporting a darker skin tone and a gold prosthetic limb. 



According to the brand, the Barbie Fashionistas line now includes 176 dolls representing 9 body types, 35 skin tones, and 94 hairstyles. "Barbie has continued to evolve over the years to better reflect the world girls see today, adding more diversity for endless storytelling possibilities," Mattel proudly states on its website. Speaking to CBS News, a spokesperson for the company said, "For 2020, Barbie is continuing the journey to represent global diversity and inclusivity in the fashion doll aisle by showcasing a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion." Among the new dolls in the line, the one that's become the talk of the town is Fashionistas Barbie #135 which depicts the skin condition vitiligo.


Image Source: Mattel


Mattel revealed that it worked with a dermatologist while designing the doll with vitiligo—an autoimmune condition that causes patches of skin to lose their pigment—to ensure it would be represented accurately. "As we continue to redefine what it means to be a 'Barbie' or look like Barbie, offering a doll with vitiligo in our main doll line allows kids to play out even more stories they see in the world around them," the spokesperson added. The new dolls also include one with no hair, a move the company stated is meant to inspire girls experiencing hair loss for any reason while also reflecting current hair trends.



Meanwhile, a new Ken sporting long hair has also joined the line, marking a welcome departure from the stereotypical male designs of previous Kens. "We've been committed to increasing diversity in our line and showcasing all the different types of beauty that exist... making the line more accessible," explained Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and its dolls portfolio. According to USA Today, more and more toy companies have embraced the inclusivity message in the past couple of years, reflecting a clear shift in consumer mentality.



"Consumers are asking for this," said Adrienne Appell, trend specialist and spokeswoman for The Toy Association—an industry trade group. Pointing out that the doll category hasn't been quite inclusive in years past, Appell stated that now toymakers "are embracing this... showing what kids are seeing in the real world and representing that in the doll aisle." Although a bit late to the inclusivity party, Barbie has more than made up for the lost time. In 2019, over half of all Barbie dolls were diverse. Some have even been inspired by actual customers. "Our wheelchair Barbie and our doll with vitiligo were literally fan requests," said McKnight.






Barbie's inclusive collection has been received quite enthusiastically by customers. The brand's top seller in 2019 was a curvy black doll with an Afro while 7 out of 10 top-selling Fashionistas last year were diverse. It has also given a boost to Barbie's bottom line as the brand reported eight consecutive quarters of growth as of the third quarter of 2019. "What we’re excited about and proud of is not only is this the right message to send to children but our efforts focusing on diversity are resonating ... from a business standpoint. The brand is thriving," said McKnight.



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