Meet the inspirational woman who inspired the world's first hijab-wearing Barbie

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Susan Devaney
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Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American fencer, is the inspiration behind Barbie’s new look. 

Ibtihaj Muhammad is a woman who keeps on breaking barriers, and more importantly, continues making history.

The American fencer was the first ever American to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympics last year, and brought home a bronze medal in fencing from the 2016 Rio Games.

Which is why Mattel Inc, the manufacturers behind Barbie, has revealed Muhammad as the latest inspiration behind the doll’s new look, and it now wears a hijab for the first time in it’s history. 

Taking to Twitter, Muhammad shared her delight in being the inspiration behind the new Barbie:

“Thank you, Mattel for announcing me as the newest member of the Barbie Shero family!,” Muhammad wrote yesterday (Monday 13 November).

I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear a hijab! This is a childhood dream come true.”

The doll is part of the Barbie ‘Shero’ line that honours women who break boundaries, and has previously included gymnast Gabby Douglas and Selma director Ava DuVernay.

Muhammad, who insisted on the doll having “big, strong legs” also made a request for her to “wear dark eyeliner and the hijab”, according to The New Yorker

“I think it’s 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,” Muhammad told People.

Since Mattel introduced Barbie to the world in 1959, the doll has long been criticised for reinforcing unattainable standards of beauty and it seems Mattel is now calling an end to the one-type-fits all doll.

“We use this line to create a halo over the brand,” Lisa McKnight, the senior vice-president in charge of Barbie strategy at Mattel Inc, told The New Yorker.

Representing 5% of the brand’s overall sales, McKnight already has her sights set on future inspirations for some of the dolls: “The trifecta —someone like Ibtihaj Muhammad, who has broken boundaries and inspires girls, and played with Barbies as a girl herself.”

Mattel Inc said the doll will be available online next autumn.

Images: Mattel / Twitter