Hijab Barbie is no longer just an Instagram account. Barbie is continuing to make history with its first hijab-wearing doll. Paying homage American Olympic fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the first American to compete and medal in the Olympic while wearing a hijab.
The 31-year-old, who was also named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” last year, is the latest woman to be honoured as part of the Barbie “Sheroes” program. Celebrating women who push through and challenge boundaries set in their field, last year’s honoree, model and activist Ashley Graham presented Muhammad with her doll at Glamour magazine’s annual Women of the Year summit in New York.
Having visited the Mattel factory to weigh in on the design process, the sabre fencing bronze medallist said being presented with the mini replica was a “perfect hijab moment,” both for herself and other young women who would finally feel represented. Muhammad also spoke to the audience about sewing her own hijabs with her sister.
“I played with Barbie for a long time, what some people may call an uncomfortably long time,” she joked during the Glamour summit where editor-in-chief of the magazine Cindi Leive said she defined the “modern American woman.”
“I hope that little girls of colour across the heartland will be inspired to embrace what makes them unique.”
As well as Graham, Muhammad joins an impressive list of “sheroes” including Zendaya, Emmy Rossum, gymnast Gabby Douglas and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, calling the opportunity “super humbling,” according to People Style.
The athlete took time during the design process to ensure the doll featured a realistic sense of body type including “strong legs” and her signature eyeliner, which she sees as her “shield of power.”
“I’m excited to just partner with a brand that I know honours powerful women who are breaking barriers and whose sole goal is to impact the future leaders of tomorrow,” she told People Style.
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
A post shared by Ibtihaj Muhammad (@ibtihajmuhammad) on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:12am PST
Muhammad stressed that the doll will start conversation around acceptance, with non-Muslims having the “opportunity to play with a doll that wears a hijab”
“To be included in this conversation is very humbling and I’m over the moon about this whole thing. I think it’s revolutionary for Barbie to take a stand in this moment that we’re in – and I would say, as a country, to have a doll wear a hijab and be the first of its kind,” she said.
Muhammad was surprised that activist Malala Yousafzai wasn’t the first hijab-wearing Barbie saying she will be the “agent” for Mattel making her the next “shero”
“I think it would be cool to have Malala have a Barbie doll… her storyline in general would be great to teach our kids today. I’m gonna tell Mattel to streamline that.”
We are so excited to honor @IbtihajMuhammad with a one-of-a-kind #Barbie doll! Ibtihaj continues to inspire women and girls everywhere to break boundaries. #Shero #YouCanBeAnything #GlamourWOTY pic.twitter.com/oV0e6ClgL6
— Barbie (@Barbie) November 13, 2017
Sejal Shal Miller, vice president of global marketing for Barbie, added in the press release, “Barbie is celebrating Ibtihaj not only for her accolades as an Olympian, but for embracing what makes her stand out,”
“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.”
Beyond the sporting arena, Muhammad is also leaving her mark on the fashion industry with her clothing line Louella, which focuses on modest, fashion-forward clothes for women.
Last year Mattel announced a greater focus on body-postivity and diversity with the introduction of three different body types and various skin tones, eye colours, hairstyles and face shapes. Muhammad’s “Shero” doll will be available for purchase in the US in 2018.