Barbie has come a long way since her first foray into the toy market over six decades ago. She’s no longer just a slender, blonde beauty—the iconic doll is now available in an array of skin tones and sizes. And that diversity is poised to grow in 2020.
As part of its Fashionistas line, the brand is introducing a doll with the skin condition vitiligo, a doll with no hair, a doll with a darker skin tone that uses a gold prosthetic limb and a Ken with long rooted hair (instead of his classic molded hairdo).
“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,” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and its dolls portfolio, told USA Today.
Mattel, the maker of Barbie, said the brand has focused on making the line more reflective of the world girls see around them by introducing more than 170 new looks in the past five years. According to its website, the Fashionistas collection now offers 176 dolls, with nine different body types, 35 different skin tones and 94 different hairstyles. And not only has the Barbie brand gotten more diverse in terms of appearance, it has also added dolls that reflect an array of experiences. In 2018, Barbie introduced a robotics engineering doll, as well as a Shero line honoring 14 women role models.
That commitment to diversity and inclusion is paying off: Of the top 10 Fashionistas bestsellers in 2019, seven were diverse, and the top-selling doll for almost every week of the year was a curvy, black Fashionista with an afro hairstyle. In the U.K., one in four dolls sold is a Barbie with a wheelchair.
“Our wheelchair Barbie and our doll with vitiligo were literally fan requests,” said McKnight.
To design the doll with vitiligo, the brand worked with a dermatologist to ensure the skin condition was accurately represented.
And in 2019, the brand collaborated with then 12-year-old Jordan Reeves, an activist, designer and inventor dedicated to raising awareness for children with disabilities, to release its first doll with a prosthetic limb. This year, Barbie is adding a second version with a darker skin tone.
The new Ken doll with long, flowing locks and the Barbie with vitiligo are on sale now, while the new doll with a prosthetic leg and the Barbie with no hair will hit shelves in June.
“What we’re excited about and proud of is not only is this the right message to send to children,” McKnight told USA Today, “but our efforts focusing on diversity are resonating…from a business standpoint. The brand is thriving.”