Mattel just released a badass new doll in the likeness of Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer and the first American to compete in the Games while wearing a hijab. (Muhammad also spoke with us about the future of Muslim women in sports.)
Muhammad is the latest honoree as part of the Barbie Shero program, which "recognizes women who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls." Last year's "shero," Ashley Graham, presented Muhammad with the award at the Glamour Women of the Year Summit, and the doll will be available for purchase in 2018. (Check out the Barbie that was made to look like Graham.)
It's safe to say Muhammad has a career tons of girls aspire to: She challenged stereotypes when she became the first Olympian from the U.S. to compete while wearing a hijab, was one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2016, and recently launched the clothing line, Louella.
"One of four girls, I played with Barbies until I was about 15, so it's hard to explain how excited I am," Muhammad tells us. "To have Barbie be the first big company to have a doll in hijab is really cool and groundbreaking. What I love most about this moment is that young girls in the future will be able to see that representation on a shelf when they walk into a toy store that has never been there before." (ICYMI, this year Nike became the first sportswear giant to make a performance hijab.)
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. 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 #shero
You can expect the doll to look like Muhammad beyond the hijab, too—from the body type to the makeup. "I was always told I had big legs growing up, but through sport I was able to learn to appreciate my body the way that it was—regardless of the images of skinny, white women with blonde hair and blue eyes that I saw on TV and the magazines, I was able to grow up as a curvier, brown kid and love my size and the strength I could achieve because of fencing. So my Barbie having strong legs was really important to me," Muhammad says. "She also needed to have the perfect winged eyeliner because it's one of the things that makes me feel great—it's my shield of power."
While playing dress-up or with dolls tends to be trivialized, Muhammad fiercely argues that the ability for girls to imagine the different things they can be, and envision themselves in different spaces, is crucial. "I don't think there's anything wrong with little girls wanting to wear makeup or role-play with their dolls—and also for their dolls to be badass sportswoman on the fencing strip, in hijab."