Mattel Addresses Backlash Over Olympics Barbies: Dolls 'Fell Short' in Representing Asians
Amid backlash and claims that its Tokyo 2020 Barbie collection did not have Asian American representation, Mattel is admitting that it "fell short" in its attempts to represent the community.
While Asian American athletes like Suni Lee stole the show at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, viewers at home were left upset over the fact that the line of five Olympic athlete Barbies did not appear to include a doll of Asian descent.
"I won't be buying Barbie dolls for my two girls," Mai Xiong, Michigan Macomb County Commissioner, wrote on Twitter. "No representation whatsoever."
In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for Mattel acknowledges the criticism, and says that the skateboarder doll — which has reddish, light brown hair — was meant to represent the Asian community, but missed the mark.
"Fostering a more inclusive world is at the heart of our brand and we strive to reflect that in our Barbie product line. With our Barbie Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 dolls, we celebrate a range of athletes to inspire kids to find their athlete within," the statement reads. "However, our intention to represent the Asian community with the Skateboarder doll fell short and we fully receive and recognize the feedback."
The statement adds that moving forward, Mattel "will work to find more ways to champion all representation and celebrate the amazing achievements of all Olympic athletes, who are showing us that anything is possible."
The collection of dolls was first introduced in February 2020, and included figurines representing five sports new to the Olympic games: surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, softball and karate.
A press release at the time said the line of products "highlights inclusivity and innovation," and would "inspire a new generation of athletes and fans around the world."
RELATED VIDEO: Naomi Osaka Tells Megyn Kelly to 'Do Better' After Journalist Slams Athlete's Magazine Covers
But after Barbie tweeted photos of the collection in late July, backlash was swift.
"Major failure! Where is the doll that looks Asian? Especially Olympic 2020 is taking place in Japan which is an Asian country. @Mattel this is a disaster, whether it's accidental or intentional," one Twitter user wrote.
"The absence of an Asian Barbie is notable despite Mattel's desire to empower and support diversity and inclusion. This while featuring a (Japanese) karate uniform too! What a missed opportunity to access a large and growing consumer market and to fully reflect Mattel's values," another wrote.
This year's recently concluded Olympics included several notable Asian American athletes, including Suni Lee, an Hmong American gymnast who is the first Asian American to win gold in the gymnastics individual all around, and Lee Kiefer, a Filipina American fencer who is the first Asian American woman to win a fencing gold in general, NBC News reported.