May 11, 2022 - Economy & Business

Mattel unveils new inclusive toys, including Barbie with hearing aids

The lineup of new Barbie dolls.
Barbie Fashionistas. Photo: Mattel

Mattel on Wednesday unveiled a set of new Barbie dolls that aims to represent more children from various backgrounds and communities, including one doll with a behind-the-ear hearing aid.

Why it matters: Multiple legacy toy brands have released more diverse and inclusive dolls in recent years.

Driving the news: Mattel's new lineup — which will be added to 2022's collection of the Fashionistas line — includes a Barbie with a prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with vitiligo (a condition where the skin loses its pigment cells). It will make its debut nationwide in June.

  • Mattel tells Axios it has released more than 175 looks in the Fashionistas line, including dolls with "a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hair colors and textures, body types, disabilities, and fashions."

What they're saying: "It’s important for kids to see themselves reflected in product and to encourage play with dolls that don’t resemble them to help them understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion," Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls, Mattel, said in a statement emailed to Axios.

Zoom out: Mattel's Barbie brand first announced the Fashionistas doll set back in January 2020 with eight body types, 35 skin tones and 94 hairstyles, which were "designed to reflect the world girls see today," CBS News reports.

  • It later added a Barbie wearing a hijab — based on Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Olympic athlete to wear a hijab during a competition — back in 2016, per CNN.
  • In 2019, Mattel released the Creatable World line that included the world's first gender-neutral dolls. The dolls came with multiple wardrobe options, accessories and wigs allowing children to create any character they want.

Mattel's Fischer Price recently announced a new set of Little People toys based on RuPaul of Mama Ru's "Drag Race" program.

  • The toys are "styled in a different fabulous look from the iconic drag performer’s career," according to Mattel.

American Girl Dolls has also became more diverse in recent years.

  • In 2022, American Girl released a set of new diverse dolls, including the company's first Asian American Girl Doll, Corinne Tan.
  • The company's Melody Ellison Doll is dressed in clothes from the '60s and has a button for a civil rights campaign.

Wonder Crew has a set of dolls that aim to teach young boys more about empathy and kindness.

The LEGO Group said in 2019 that it was piloting building sets that come with audio and Braille instructions.

Lottie Dolls, an Irish doll company, had a Loyal Companion doll that is inspired by a boy with autism.

  • The doll comes with ear defenders that aim to stop noise and sunglasses to block out the sun.

Go deeper: Chinese American doll named "Girl of the Year"

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