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Cultural Marketing: Barbie finally makes a Hijab wearing doll

While most young girls around the world are accustomed to playing with Barbie dolls that are dressed in fashionable and sometimes sexy dresses.

Hijabs and Niqab have become an international discussion, usually due to bad situations. Well, they are back in the news, but finally the international community is celebrating another side of the Hijab and Niqab story.

Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, has just released a new Barbie doll, and this time, it is definitely newsworthy.

Recommended Read ► What marketers can learn from Nike “Pro Hijab Collection”

Barbie has always been the same since its launch in the 1950s; tall, white, slim and blonde has been Barbie’s most memorable traits for decades. But in a world filled with multiple cultures, multiple looks, Barbie’s old look just doesn’t seem to fit.

Mattel’s newest strategy?

To rebrand itself, not as the slim tall blonde of the pack, but as a pack leader of a diverse and strong group.


Bringing the future, lifting the spirits of young girls around the world

First hijab-wearing Barbie launched inspired by Olympic fencer. Meet new and improved Barbie, with beautiful dark skin and a sleek hijab. She says the doll is a “childhood dream come true”.

Based off of the USA’s Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic Fencer who became the first US Olympic team member to compete in a Hijab.

The Olympic Bronze winner played for team USA in Fencing. She also won gold in in 2014 at the world fencing championships in Russia.

Now she has made history again by having the very first Hijab Barbie modeled after her.

Barbie’s marketing vice president Sejal Shah Miller said in a statement: “Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented. By honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.”


The Barbie has quickly become a visual reminder that we now live in a multi-cultural world, and a self-esteem booster for many Hijab wearers.

Ibtihaj herself said that she loved playing with Barbies when she was young, but had trouble with the fact that they didn’t look like her. So, she started to sew hijabs to put onto her dolls.

Now she hopes that young girls around the world will be inspired “to embrace what makes them unique.”


It’s not only about the Hijab

Ibtihaj made sure that the doll wasn’t simply a covered up classical Barbie; thick sports trained legs, strong arms and dressed in full fencing gear, this Barbie is definitely far away from the stereotypical Barbie.

The Fencer is featured as part of Mattel’s “Sheroes” line, in which they are inspired by real women.

According to Mattel, to be considered for Shero status, a woman needs to have broken boundaries, inspired girls and played with Barbies as a girl herself.

Ibtihaj isn’t the only Olympian on the Barbie Shero roaster, fellow team USA Olympian Gabby Douglas also has her own doll as part of the line.


Tell us, do you think this is the right step to the future? Comment and share your thoughts with us.

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