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Mattel admits Tokyo Olympics Barbies ‘fell short’ of representing Asian community

Five Barbie dolls wearing athletic apparel and gold medals
Barbie dolls from Mattel’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 collection.
(Mattel)

Mattel is owning up to its mistakes after Twitter users accused the toymaker of excluding Barbies of Asian descent from its new Tokyo Olympics play set.

In a statement provided Tuesday to the Los Angeles Times, the company clarified that a doll resembling an Olympic skateboarder was intended to “represent the Asian community” — but acknowledged that the collection ultimately failed to meet its goal.

“Fostering a more inclusive world is at the heart of our brand and we strive to reflect that in our Barbie product line,” the statement read. “With our Barbie Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 dolls, we celebrate a range of athletes to inspire kids to find their athlete within.

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“However, our intention to represent the Asian community with the Skateboarder doll fell short and we fully receive and recognize the feedback. Moving forward, we 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 latest Naomi Osaka model Barbie doll is part of the El Segundo-based company’s Role Model Series.

This week, Barbie began trending on social media after images of the brand’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 action figures ignited a sharp backlash on Twitter.

Though some were able to deduce that the fair-skinned, brunette skateboarder doll was modeled after a person of Asian descent, many argued that the collection was not nearly inclusive enough — especially when symbolizing a major global event held in Japan.

“Gosh you can’t make this up,” wrote one person. “It’s the TOKYO Olympics. Try for a single asian barbie?!”

“mattel forgetting to make an asian barbie for the TOKYO OLYMPICS collection is insane,” tweeted another.

Photos of Sunisa Lee, winner of the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around final.

The Tokyo Olympics concluded Sunday after two weeks of intense competition that saw several athletes of Asian descent medal across a variety of events. Among the champions was Minnesota gymnast Sunisa Lee, who emerged from the games a Hmong American hero after winning gold in the all-around tournament, as well as silver in the team final and bronze on uneven bars.

Before this year’s competition came to a close, Mattel released its Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Barbie set — featuring five gold medalists in skateboarding, surfing, softball, rock climbing and karate. The dolls and their accessories are available to purchase for $19.99 on the Target website.


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