In 2016, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history as the first athlete to wear a hijab while representing the United States at the Olympic Games. She also became the first Muslim American woman to win an Olympic medal.
Inspiring, right? Mattel, the toymaker behind Barbie dolls, thought so too. This week, Mattel introduced the first Barbie doll to wear a hijab. It will go on sale next year.
“Ibtihaj continues to inspire women and girls everywhere to break boundaries,” the Barbie makers said.
The doll was introduced at the Glamour Women of the Year gala in New York, where Muhammad was on hand to express her gratitude.
“I had so many moments as an athlete where I didn’t feel included, where I was often in spaces where there was a lack of representation,” the 31-year-old New Jersey native said. “So to be in this moment, as a U.S. Olympian, to have Mattel, such a global brand, diversify their toy line to include a Barbie doll that wears a hijab is very moving to me.”
Muhammad was also part of Mattel’s creative process, she said. As a kid, she was “bullied for having larger legs,” but fencing taught her to “embrace my body … and the strength that it could produce.” She wanted the Barbie doll to reflect that.
“I think that having strong legs helped me win a medal at the Olympic Games, so I wanted my legs to be larger, more athletic legs, toned legs,” Muhammad said. “And I am very into eyeliner, so I wanted a strong-winged cat eye. And Mattel listened to everything, everything even down to the fabric of the hijab.”
Muhammad’s doll also features her helmet, saber and Nike shoes.
“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,” Sejal Shah Miller, Barbie’s vice president of global marketing, said in a statement.