Tennis Icon Billie Jean King Is the Latest Inspiring Woman to Become a Barbie: 'I'm So Thrilled'
"If you can see it, you can be it. And so when they look at the Barbie, they'll start imagining, and then they'll start learning," Billie Jean King tells PEOPLE of girls playing with Barbie's line of dolls that honor prominent women in history
Billie Jean King is officially a Barbie girl.
The tennis icon, 76, is the latest female trailblazer to become one of the beloved dolls as part of Barbie’s Inspiring Women Series. The line is dedicated to honoring modern and historical women role models, and has already included Sally Ride, Rosa Parks and more.
King’s Barbie — modeled after the former athlete during her tennis heyday — is in a class with Ella Fitzgerald and Florence Nightingale.
“I’m so thrilled to be part of the Barbie family now. And you know, I’m also with Ella Fitzgerald, who is being released and who was a real ‘shero’ of mine,” King tells PEOPLE. “And then also, Florence Nightingale who I always admired as a child. I read her story because I love history.”
She adds, “It’s really exciting as each one comes out and you know, it’s all about imagining the possibilities for your life, especially for the young ones. They can dream, they can imagine when they have their Barbie. Hopefully it helps them to think about all the possibilities in their life — that they can be anything they want to be and that it’ll help them decide how to define their lives and not be defined by others. So I think it’s fantastic.”
King notes the importance of play for young girls — and why highlighting historical icons in doll-form is so crucial.
“If you can see it, you can be it. And so when they look at the Barbie, they’ll start imagining, and then they’ll start learning,” Billie Jean King tells PEOPLE.
She also praises Mattel’s move to sell more inclusive dolls, with varying skin tones, hair textures, body shapes and more.
“Barbie’s showing us the way and also it’s responding and reacting to how the world is changing,” King, who won 39 Grand Slam titles in women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles, says.
Each of the Inspiring Women dolls features authentic clothing and unique accessories, plus educational information about the honoree’s contributions to society. They retail for $29.99 and are available from Target, Walmart, Amazon and Barbie.com.
King is not the only tennis star who’s been made into a Barbie — Naomi Osaka became one in March 2019.
Highlighting athletes, King says, is just furthering the importance of sports for growing girls.
“I think sports and physical activity so important for everyone, particularly girls because they learn to trust their body,” King tells PEOPLE, adding, “I think it helps us in leadership.”