Barbie’s breaking barriers! Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first-ever U.S. Olympic athlete to compete wearing a hijab at the 2016 Rio Olympic games. And now she has her very own Barbie — the first to ever wear a hijab in the brand’s 58-year history.
A one-of-a-kind doll made in her likeness was unveiled at Glamour’s Women of the Year Live Summit Monday, as the latest doll in Barbie’s “Shero” line (that would be female heroes), a program that celebrates boundary-breaking women intended to inspire the next generation.
Muhammad joins an impressive roster of other “Sheroes” including Ashley Graham, Zendaya, Kristin Chenoweth, Gabby Douglas, Emmy Rossum, Trisha Yearwood, Misty Copeland and Ava DuVernay and calls the opportunity “super humbling.”
“I’m excited to just partner with a brand that I know honors powerful women who are breaking barriers and whose sole goal is to impact the future leaders of tomorrow,” Muhammad tells PeopleStyle. “To be included in this conversation is very humbling and I’m over the moon about this whole thing.”
The athlete worked with Mattel every step of the way in the design process and says her resemblance to the doll is uncanny. (The Ibtihaj Barbie will be released to the public in the fall of 2018.) “It’s so cool to see myself in this little doll form with my fencing uniform on,” she says. “It says my name on the back and it has a fencing mask and the little sabre. I just love it.”
Something that she made sure her doll featured was a realistic sense of her body type and her signature eye liner. “I know that as an athlete I have larger legs — these strong legs that we use, especially fencers, to propel ourselves into lunges — and it was important for me to have my doll be as close to my likeness as possible. So I wanted to have athletic toned legs for sure. I’m also really big to into eyeliner. I like to think of my eyeliner as a shield of power; I not only wear it to the grocery store but I also wear it to compete. I wore it to the Olympic games, so I wanted my Barbie to have the perfect winged liner and also to wear a hijab.”
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The importance of representing the first-ever hijab-wearing doll is not lost on Muhammad. “I think its 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 says. “There has never been a Barbie doll to wear a hijab before. I’m really excited to have this moment happen in my life and also for all these little girls now who can shop for Barbie doll that may look them, may wear a hijab like they do, or like their mom does, or like a friend does. But also have kids who aren’t Muslim, who don’t wear a hijab, to also have the opportunity to play with a doll that wears a hijab.”
Not only does her Barbie represent a whole new population of women, but it opens many more doors of creativity for children when they play with Barbie. “I come from a pretty small sport that a lot of people had the opportunity to learn about last summer at the Olympic games and now to even have fencers in the conversation,” she says. “It’s cool to have Muslim girls in the conversation, to have African Americans as fencers is also really cool. I feel like we’re just shattering all the little glass ceilings here.”
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She hopes that this is just the start of more inclusive representation within the doll market and knows who she’d like to nominated for a Shero doll next year. “When I found out I was the first woman in a hijab, I thought for sure Malala Yousafzai would have one,” she said. “I think it would be cool to have Malala have a Barbie doll… her story line in general would be great to teach our kids today. I’m gonna tell Mattel to streamline that. I’ll be the agent on that.”
What do you think of Muhammad’s Barbie doll?