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November 13, 2017

Olympian-inspired Barbie is first Mattel doll to wear a hijab

Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in the Rio 2016 Olympics as the first woman to compete in the games while wearing a hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by Muslim women. After earning the bronze for sabre fencing, she became the first female Muslim-American to win an Olympic medal.

Now Muhammad, who grew up in Essex County, New Jersey, is making history again as Mattel unveils a new doll inspired by the athlete. The new Barbie will be the first of its kind to wear a hijab.

The doll is part of the Barbie Shero program, which creates dolls based on public figures who “break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls,” Barbie said in a press release.

Mattel unveiled the doll during Glamour’s Women of the Year summit. Barbie also tweeted a preview of the doll.

Previous Shero dolls have included “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, American ballerina Misty Copeland and U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, among others.

“It’s a very humbling experience to even be in the same sentence with these women,” Muhammad said to the Huffington Post. She also described her experience growing up and playing with Barbies herself.

“My mom made efforts when I was a kid to bring dolls into the house that were only dolls of color,” she said. “So I only had brown Barbie dolls growing up and I think that was an effort made by my parents to see us reflected in the dolls we played with. It’s revolutionary to make all kids – no matter your skin color, your gender, your ethnicity, your religious beliefs – feel included.”

Sejal Shah Miller, vice president of global marketing for Barbie, echoed those sentiments.

“Barbie is celebrating Ibithaj not only for her accolades as an Olympian, but for embracing what makes her stand out,” Miller said in a press release. “Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented, and by honoring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.”

The new Shero Barbie will hit shelves in 2018.