Barbie Just Released a Doll With Down Syndrome—Here’s Why That’s Important

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

The National Down Syndrome Society has called the doll "a huge step forward for inclusion."

Mattel’s Barbie is one of the most iconic American brands. Since 1959, we’ve followed Barbara Millicent Roberts’ illustrious career throughout the ages. From model to astronaut to president, she’s been it all.

And in addition to different career representations of Barbie, over the years, Mattel has released Barbies of various different identities. From the 1969 release of Christie, the first Black Barbie, to 2016’s first Barbie with a hijab, Mattel has worked to expand its definition of who can be Barbie. While the company hasn’t always gotten this representation right, they remain steadfast in their dedication to promoting diversity.

Now, Mattel is further strengthening this commitment by releasing the first Barbie with Down syndrome. Here’s everything to know about the historic doll, including what she looks like, how she was designed and how she is being received in the Down syndrome community.

Meet the new Barbie with Down syndrome

Down Syndrom Barbie Outfit Courtesy MattelCourtesy Mattel

The new Barbie with Down syndrome is part of Mattel’s 2023 Fashionistas collection, which the company is touting as “the most diverse doll line.” To create this new Barbie and accurately represent those with Down syndrome, Mattel worked alongside the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), according to NPR. In appearance, the doll has a shorter body frame than other Barbies with a longer torso, as well as a round face with smaller ears and slanted, almond-shaped eyes, according to the NDSS.

Additionally, the doll wears a blue and yellow dress that features butterflies, which are a symbol of Down syndrome awareness. Finally, the three upward chevrons on the doll’s pink necklace represent the “three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome,” according to the NDSS.

The new Barbie with Down syndrome retails for $10.99. and will be available for purchase this summer and fall.

Why the new Barbie is so important

Mattel Barbie Fashionista Lineup Courtesy MattelCourtesy Mattel

Mattel explains its inspiration behind the new Barbie doll, saying that they wanted “to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie.” Lisa McKnight, the executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel, adds, “We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play.”

In addition to supporting those children with Down syndrome who can see themselves represented in the new Barbie, according to McKnight, “encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves […] can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to more accepting world.” Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO, adds, “This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation.”

How the New Barbie is being received

While the doll is very new on the market, Ellie Goldstein, a prominent disability rights activist and British model with Down syndrome, has already been outspoken about her excitement about the doll. In an April 25 Instagram reel, she explained, “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. […] Diversity is important as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away[.] Barbie will help make this happen.”