When Ibtihaj Muhammad stepped into the fencing piste at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she made history as the first American athlete to compete in the games wearing a hijab. Now, the New Jersey native is the inspiration behind Mattel’s first hijab-wearing Barbie. The ubiquitous Mattel doll is dressed in white, padded fencing attire, with Muhammad embossed in black lettering across the back. The helmet can be removed to reveal a white headscarf. The Barbie also comes with a pair of Nike trainers (Muhammad is a brand ambassador for Nike) and a fencing foil.
The new doll, which will be available next fall, was unveiled during the US Glamour Celebrates 2017 Women Of The Year summit in New York. The game-changing Barbie falls under the Barbie #Shero line, which is based on women with inspiring stories, including gymnast Gabby Douglas and Selma director Ava DuVernay, which came with its own director’s chair and has long dreadlocks. DuVernay’s doll sold out within hours on Amazon and Barbie.com.
Muhammad, who won a bronze medal in team sabre at the 2016 Rio Olympics, shares her joy on her official Instagram page: “Thank you Mattel for announcing me as the newest member of the Barbie Shero family! The Barbie Shero Program recognizes women who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls and I am so excited to join this incredible group of women.” She adds, “I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true.”
In an interview with team Vogue.me before her 2016 Olympic win, Muhammad stated, “People told me that my goals weren’t attainable for whatever reason – especially when I was trying to achieve a feat that has never been done before – and that was discouraging.” Her message to the next generation of sporting stars of Muslim faith? “Never allow anyone to dictate your journey.”
Barbie previously made headlines with the most dramatic transformation in her 57-year history with the debut of diverse body types, after facing decades of criticism for unrealistic proportions and unattainable figure.
Although this is the first Barbie to represent the Muslim community, it’s not the first hijab-wearing doll to take the internet by storm. Hijarbie, created and handmade by Haneefah Adam from Nigeria, is a non-Mattel doll dressed in miniature modest outfits styled with hijabs and abayas. Meanwhile, Fulla, developed by the UAE-based toy company Newboy, hit shelves in 2003 and is often sold wearing a hijab or an abaya, and sometimes comes with a pink prayer rug.