Barbie makes history: the first hijab-wearing doll is here

If Barbie was life size, she’d be a 5’9”, weighing around 110lbs with a mane of thick blonde hair tumbling down to her tiny, 16-inch waist. So not exactly the most attainable role-model for young girls around the world.

Enter Mattel’s newest doll: she’s modelled on fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who made history last year when she became the first American to compete and win a medal at the Olympics while wearing the hijab. Now, she’s making history again – this is the first Barbie to ever wear a hijab.

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The doll was revealed at Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit on Monday, where Ibtihaj said, “When I think about my own journey – me being a Muslim girl involved in the sport of fencing – there were people who made me feel like I didn't belong. For all those people who didn't believe in me, this Barbie doll is for you.”

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When the New Jersey athlete was told Mattel wanted to create a Barbie in her honour, she cried (understandably). Then, she made a few requests: Ibtihaj wanted the Barbie to truly represent her, so she asked for the doll to wear dark eyeliner, have big, strong legs and that she wear the hijab.

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“It’s something I wear like I wear a shirt or I wear pants,” says Ibtihaj, who as a child used to make tiny hijabs out of tissues for her Barbie dolls so they would look more like her and her sisters. Ibtihaj hopes that children will “take [the hijab] off and try it on their other Barbies”.

“Today, I’m proud to know that little girls who wear a hijab and, just as powerfully, those who don’t, can play with Barbie in a headscarf,” says Ibtihaj.

The doll is the the latest addition to Mattel’s ‘Shero’ Barbie collection – a line of dolls modelled on “female heroes who inspire girls by breaking boundaries and expanding possibilities for women everywhere”.

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The ‘Shero’ line started with a one-off doll created for Zendaya, after she wore her hair in dreadlocks to the Oscars in 2015 and received shocking comments from the presenters of Police in response (which, in turn, caused an outrage among the public).

Other dolls in the collection are inspired by model Ashley Graham, Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, director Ava DuVernay and ballet dancer Misty Copeland. The Ava and Misty dolls were put into production, and the Ibtihaj Muhammad will also be available in 2018.

Barbie’s marketing vice president Sejal Shah Miller agrees: “Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented. By honouring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.”

See Barbie through the ages...

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