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First hijab-wearing Barbie Doll to honour US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad

American group Mattel unveiled its first ever hijab-wearing Barbie doll Monday in honor of US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad

world Updated: Nov 14, 2017 09:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Barbie Doll,Ibtihaj Muhammad,Hijab wearing Barbie
Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad holds a Barbie doll made in her likeness as she attends the 2017 Glamour Women of the Year Awards at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., November 13, 2017. (REUTERS Photo)

For the first time ever in its nearly 60-year history, Barbie will wear a hijab for a doll modelled on Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

The doll will be part of a Barbie line called Shero, which is based on women with inspirational backgrounds. Mattel, the US toy company that introduced Barbie in 1959, announced the doll with the Islamic headscarf on Monday.

In 2016, Muhammad became the first American to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. She won a bronze in team sabre at the Rio Olympics.

“For me, it was a real ‘Aha!’ moment,” Robert Best, the lead designer of Barbie, was quoted as saying by New Yorker. Best had no idea the hijab was worn when he met Muhammad earlier this year to show her a prototype of the Barbie.

“I walked in there and I didn’t want to offend her,” he said.

Muhammad was largely pleased with the early version of the doll, which was clad in a white padded fencing outfit from head to toe, with “Muhammad” printed in black letters across the back, New Yorker reported. The doll’s fencing helmet can be removed to reveal the hijab.

“She wanted the fabric to be a little thicker so it couldn’t be seen through,” Best said. Muhammad didn’t remove her own hijab but she described her hair’s texture and colour. She also showed Best and his team how to tie the hijab.

The announcement about the new Barbi was made at the Glamour’s Women of the Year summit and the doll will go on sale next year.

The Shero line, launched in 2015, includes dolls based on women such as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, ballerina Misty Copeland and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.

As the sales of Barbie have plateaued around the world, Mattel has launched new and diverse lines to drive sales in countries that it entered in the past few decades. It has also introduced Barbie dolls with different body types following criticism of the traditional doll with a tiny waist and a large bosom.

An analysis done by an advocacy group in 2013 had revealed that a real woman with Barbie’s proportions would have room for only half a liver and a very small intestine.

Three years later, Mattel introduced Barbies with different body types, including one this year based on Wonder Woman.

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

First Published: Nov 14, 2017 09:47 IST