The popular Barbie doll company Mattel rolled out new designs in its collection to celebrate diversity and encourage inclusivity. The company introduced Barbie dolls of different body shapes in 2016 to match realistic body types and skin tones. It also celebrated International Women’s Day 2018 by honouring 17 historic and modern-day women role models with Barbie dolls emulating women’s roles. Yet again in 2019 and 2020, Mattel won the hearts of people by launching disabled Barbie dolls - like Barbie with Vitiligo, Barbie on a wheelchair, no-hair Barbie doll and one with a prosthetic leg. In fact, the prototype of Barbie with Vitiligo received maximum likes on their Instagram page.
Vitiligo and No-Hair Barbie Dolls
Image source: Mattel
With the vision to broaden its product diversity, Mattel announced the addition of two more designs to its collection in January 2020 – Barbie dolls with the Vitiligo skin condition and Barbie without hair. Why did the brand come up with these unusual designs? According to the company, the purpose of its new designs is to make little girls with hair loss issue or skin pigmentation feel connected with the brand. For instance, for a little girl who has lost her hair from medical treatment or has Vitiligo, seeing a Barbie doll that looks just like her will instantly cheer her up, making her feel special. Mattel recognised the need to cater to a wider customer base and represent the large group of people who are disregarded by other brands. With inclusive marketing, the company aims at building customer loyalty by giving them a sense of belonging with the brand.
The Idea Behind Disabled Barbie Dolls and Diversity
Image source: Mattel
The Barbie brand has been working towards creating a collection of dolls that represent a multidimensional view of fashion and beauty. The thought behind Barbie’s 2019 Fashionista line was to promote inclusivity and fight the disgrace revolving around physical disabilities. This idea was brought to life by collaborating with a disability activist – Jordan Reeves (aged 13 years) – who had no left forearm at the time of birth. Once the prosthetic limb Barbie was created, Mattel collaborated with the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital to design a wheelchair for the Barbie. These new designs became a hit among Barbie fans and also received praises from the National Disability Rights Network’s executive director - Curt Decker. He said, it is a great way to show kids that there’s nothing wrong with disability and every individual is different; that in a world with over 1 billion disabled people, the launch of disabled Barbie dolls can greatly help remove the stigma around disability.
Life-Like Barbie Dolls
Image source: Mattel
Mattel did not leave behind other major aspects of one’s real life personality. Can you guess what I am talking about? Yes, the body type! It is definitely worth mentioning that in 2016, the Barbie doll company launched Barbie dolls in four body types – tall, curvy, original and petite. It sends out a message to growing kids that everybody is unique and beautiful in their own way irrespective of the way they look. Additionally, their Fashionista line includes as many as seven skin tones, 24 hairstyles, 22 eye colours and numerous trendy fashion accessories. These unique, realistic designs are made for young girls to reflect their personalities in their favourite doll brand. Basically, the aim is to avoid sending negative signals to customers and instead, make them feel like “yes, I belong here”.
The most-loved Barbie doll brand believes that imagination can be limitless. From curly, straight, braided hairstyles to fair, medium, darker skin tones; tall, curvy, petite body types to disabled Barbie dolls, hairless dolls and dolls with Vitiligo, they have come a long way in creating products that appeal to their lovable customers. It would be safe to say that Mattel has successfully defeated the long-time criticism that it promoted unhealthy, false notion about a person’s perfect personality.
Reference Links: CNN, NBC News, Dezeen, Forbes