New Barbie With Down Syndrome Underscores The Power Of Representation

It is a beautiful story of inclusion and belonging. A heartwarming announcement hit the headlines on Tuesday April 25 as the USA’s giant toy company Mattel unveiled its most recent line of toys. A Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome has been added to its collection of Fashionistas.

The doll with its detailing

Under the able guidance of the National Down Syndrome Society, it was ensured that the new doll accurately reflected the condition. Attention was also given to the fact that the doll was clothed and accessorized with an underlying symbolic significance.

  • With a rounder face, smaller ears, flat nasal bridge, and slightly slanted eyes, the new Barbie is distinguishable from the dolls made earlier. The doll is shorter and has a longer torso.
  • The doll is made to wear a dress with shades of blue and yellow, the colors that are used to raise awareness about Down syndrome.
  • The ankle foot orthotics are emblematic of the braces that some children with Down syndrome wear.
  • People with Down syndrome have 3 copies of the 21st chromosome, and this is represented by the pink pendant necklace with 3 chevrons.

Meet Kayla McKeon, the woman behind this novel creation.

As the first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome, Kayla McKeon has brought her personal story to the national level. She is the manager of Grassroots Advocacy within the National Down Syndrome Society, bringing awareness and changing laws and attitudes to promote the cause of those like her.

Like many other little girls, McKeon’s childhood revolved around Barbie dolls, and she spent a lot of time playing with them. However, she realized that some connection was missing because none of those dolls had Down syndrome, something which essentially defined her life. She says: “When I was a kid, I didn’t see myself in them.”

Decades later, the desire to see herself in those dolls was fulfilled when the NDSS was contacted to create a Barbie who had Down Syndrome. McKeon has been involved with the project from the very beginning. She beams with joy: “I’m so proud and excited that there’s a doll out there that looks just like me.”

The new doll evokes an emotional response from a renowned British model!

Model and former Glamour magazine cover star Ellie Goldstein is engulfed with sentimental feelings as she shares in her Instagram post: “When I saw the doll, I felt so emotional and proud. It means a lot to me that children will be able to play with the doll and learn that everyone is different.”

Goldstein has made history by being the first person with Down syndrome to star in a luxury fashion campaign. She prides herself upon having stepped into the fashion industry with her condition and has an empowering message for the world:  “Don’t ridicule people like me – take a risk.”

An important step towards a more inclusive world

The progress of a nation or the world at large cannot be measured only in terms of its economic indicators or its scientific and technological advancement. We need to strive for a better landscape in which diversity is celebrated, equality is endorsed, and all individuals find a voice and see themselves represented in the larger canvas.

It is important that we teach our kids acceptance and inclusivity from a tender age. The purpose behind the Barbie doll with Down syndrome is to inculcate these values through play. The initiative taken by the iconic toy company is a step in the right direction. It will not only allow children with the condition to see themselves in the doll, but it will also pave the path for other kids to recognize and embrace differences, thereby sowing the seeds for an empathetic world.

(This article was featured in Women’s Web )


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