Mattel Announces New Barbie With Vitiligo, A Common Skin Condition

Because representation matters.

The world of Barbie just got more inclusive with maker Mattel announcing the arrival of a new model that has vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that causes some areas of the skin to lose color.

On Tuesday, Barbie announced their "most diverse doll line" called Barbie Fashionistas via Twitter account. "More skin tones! More body types! More diverse looks," the brand said in the Twitter post, which linked back to an online page explaining the new dolls a bit more.

According to the Mattel website, the Barbie Fashionistas line includes 176 dolls with 9 body types, 34 skin tones, and 94 hairstyles. "For 2020, Barbie is continuing the journey to represent global diversity and inclusivity in the fashion doll aisle by showcasing a multi-dimensional view of beauty and fashion," a Mattel spokesperson told CBS News.

For Barbie's vitiligo doll in particular, Mattel worked with a dermatologist to ensure the condition was accurately represented, according to CBS News. "As we continue to redefine what it means to be a 'Barbie' or look like Barbie, offering a doll with vitiligo in our main doll line allows kids to play out even more stories they see in the world around them," the spokesperson said.

According to the Genetics Home Reference (GHR), a division of the National Institutes of Health, vitiligo is a common autoimmune disorder that affects up to one percent of people, worldwide. In those with vitiligo, the cells that produce melanocytes, or brown pigment, stop functioning or die—possibly in an autoimmune response, in which the body's immune system begins attacking healthy cells. While anyone can be diagnosed with vitiligo, it can be more noticeable in people with darker skin.

People who have vitiligo have no way of knowing how much of their body will be affected and how much color their skin will lose. There's no known cause for vitiligo, and condition isn’t life-threatening, but there isn’t yet a drug that can stop vitiligo from progressing

If vitiligo sets in during childhood, it can make the process of learning about your body and identity even more confusing, and, often, people with the condition are bullied because of their looks, which is why societal representation, (for example, the new Barbie), is welcome to the vitiligo community.

The new doll is the latest in a string of models intended to promote diversity within the Barbie community—in their newest Fashionistas line, Mattel also introduced a doll with no hair, meant to inspire girls experiencing hair loss due to medical reasons, as well as new fashion trends. In recent years, Mattel also announced a Barbie model that uses a wheelchair, as well as one that wears a hijab.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles