Barbie unveils first doll with hearing aids and a Ken with vitiligo

Fashion legend Vera Wang immortalised in Barbie form

The makers of the iconic Barbie just released a diverse and inclusive range of dolls - including a doll with hearing aids and Ken with vitiligo.

Mattel, the California-bassed company behind the doll, said it wants children to "see themselves reflected" in the dolls and to help encourage them to play with toys that don't look like them to help them recognise "and celebrate the importance of inclusion."

"It's important for kids to see themselves reflected in product and to encourage them to play with dolls that don't resemble them to help them understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion," said Lisa McKnight, Mattel's global head of Barbie and Dolls in a statement to CNN.

The new model features the brand's first-ever Barbie with hearing aids, the first Ken with vitiligo, and a Barbie with a prosthetic leg.

In June, they will be making their debut as part of the Fashionistas line.

This comes after Mattel released numerous dolls with permanent disabilities in 2019 following their collaboration with teen activist Jordan Reeves and new additions. They also included a Barbie in a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, in 2021, a Black doll sporting an afro quickly became the brand's bestseller worldwide.

Mattel made the Barbie with hot pink hearing aids with the aid of Dr Jen Richardson, an educational audiology expert, who consulted the manufacturer on how to properly replicate the devices for the dolls.

'I'm beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them,' Richardson told CNN.

The charity Walk4Hearing also praised the move on Twitter and wrote: "We're ready to make waves with you @Barbie & @Mattel! Thank you for including hearing aids to promote hearing health and awareness, way to go!"

For years now, Mattel has diversified dolls to move away from the backlash that Barbie's image in popular culture traditionally has been known to be a blue-eyed and fair-skinned woman with a small waist and large chest - the image of the first Barbie over 60 years ago.

The dolls' body shapes also have been modified to highlight smaller chests and more curves. On the other hand, male dolls are also less muscular to help add to the inclusive range.

Elsewhere, in 2020, Mattel unveiled more inclusive dolls, including a Ken doll with long hair and a Barbie with vitiligo.

And last year, they released another Barbie with a prosthetic limb who had a darker complexion.

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