New Barbie With Down Syndrome Proves the Iconic Doll Is More Diverse Than Ever

The new Barbie is being praised by the disability community and parents. Diversity has become the core of Barbie's mission—and we're here for it.

Barbie with Down Syndrome


The first Barbie doll made its debut in 1959. Obviously, times have changed, and so has Barbie. Mattel's "Fashionista" Barbie line now sells more than 175 dolls with varying skin tones, hair, eye color, and body type.

These are dolls that are a far cry from the leggy, blonde 1980s Barbies I grew up with. As a parent of a child with disabilities, I especially loved the 2022 addition to the collection—a line of dolls with disabilities including a doll who wears hearing aids, dolls who use wheelchairs, and dolls with a prosthetic leg.

Now, Barbie is expanding that diversity even more by introducing its first-ever doll with Down syndrome, and the disability community is totally here for it.

Fashionistas line of Barbies

Why Accurate Representation Matters

The new doll is exciting news for many reasons, but the most basic is straight-up representation. The entire diverse Barbie line makes it easier for children to find dolls that look like them. Now the same is true for the 6,000 people born with Down syndrome every year.

"The Down syndrome Barbie reflects children and adults who didn't see themselves reflected before," says Kandi Pickard, president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and a parent of a child with Down syndrome. Feeling reflected in the world around these children is so important.

Mattel was careful to create the doll with the right proportions. They consulted a medical doctor on the scientific and clinical advisory board at NDSS to help sculpt the doll for accuracy. The doll's pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome. It's a symbol well-known in the Down syndrome community and is a popular tattoo intended to spark a conversation about Down syndrome. The doll also wears orthotics, which is common for people with Down syndrome. She's shorter in stature than other dolls and has almond-shaped eyes and a single line on her hand.

"This beautiful doll has the almond-shaped eyes and the crease in the palm," says Kayla McKeon, manager of grassroots advocacy at NDSS who has Down syndrome herself. "People with Down syndrome can be shorter in stature. You can see the similarities between the two. With these characteristics, they really listened and paid attention to the design. I find that very welcoming. I love it."

I, too, am excited about the push for more diverse dolls. I don't regularly see children like my son, who uses a wheelchair, reflected in toys or on TV. Our whole family gets excited when we see inclusion represented in the world, even when it's a basic need like a well-placed ramp. It shows us that my son and, by extension, the rest of our family, are welcome.

Ken doll using a wheelchair


Teaching Others About Disabilities

Aside from individuals with Down syndrome seeing themselves in the doll, all children learn through play, and giving them toys and books that reflect a diverse experience can teach children to be more inclusive. Research shows that children who reported greater levels of contact with people with disabilities had more positive attitudes towards disability.

Diversity in play can reduce awkward situations in public too. When we go out as a family, it's common to find children staring at my son. Children are curious and they notice when someone looks different. They want to understand those differences and connect with them, so they ask questions in the moment. For parents, it's not always easy to give a clear explanation. But through diverse play, children's attitudes toward disability can improve.

"This is a recognition of who people see in their classrooms, in their workspaces, in their broader communities," Pickard says. "This doll allows for the opportunity for more questions to be asked. If those doors are open in an honest way, it's a very natural discussion."

Continuing the Diversity Discussion

The National Down Syndrome Society logo and website are prominently featured on Barbie's box. Parents can read more about the design of the doll and find links to resources on both the NDSS website as well as Barbie's diversity website. This could lead to even more conversation at home.

"This doll is about representation, awareness, acceptance, and inclusion," says Pickard. "It isn't just a Barbie with Down Syndrome. It's a representation of our entire community."

Kandi Pickard, President and CEO, National Down Syndrome Society

This doll is about representation, awareness, acceptance, and inclusion. It isn't just a Barbie with Down Syndrome. It's a representation of our entire community.

— Kandi Pickard, President and CEO, National Down Syndrome Society

That discussion will go even further as Barbie makes her live-action movie debut this summer. The Barbie Movie opens in theaters on July 21, 2023. The film includes a diverse cast, including multiple versions of Barbie and Ken starring actors such as Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Alexandra Shipp, Simu Liu, and Kingsley Ben-Adir. There is even a Barbie selfie generator that's going viral, allowing anyone and everyone to edit themselves in a poster as Barbie or Ken.

With its strong focus on diversity and inclusion, Barbie is really making waves not only in diverse communities but also in the world. "What makes us all different is what makes us unique," says Pickard.

I couldn't agree more.

The Barbie with Down syndrome as well as the rest of the diverse Fashionistas line is now available at retailers across the country for $10.99.

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data and Statistics on Down Syndrome.

  2. Armstrong M, Morris C, Abraham C, Ukoumunne OC, Tarrant M. Children’s contact with people with disabilities and their attitudes towards disability: a cross-sectional study. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2016.

  3. Armstrong M, Morris C, Abraham C, Tarrant M. Interventions utilising contact with people with disabilities to improve children’s attitudes towards disability: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Disability and Health Journal. 2017

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