World champion sprinter Dina Asher-Smith is the fastest British woman ever. But her most surreal moment? Becoming a Barbie.
“It was the most amazing news to receive: I was running through my schedule with my manager when she said, ‘Oh, and Barbie has asked…’, and I said, ‘Sorry, Barbie?’ Growing up, Barbie was a big deal in my world. My friend had all the best stuff – the car, the kitchenette, the house – and we’d sit on the floor of her bedroom playing for hours. I’d think up entire lives for them. I liked to cook, so my Barbie was a chef.
I’d heard about the Shero campaign, which honours incredible women such as the gymnast Simone Biles or the boxer Nicola Adams, by creating a bespoke, one-off Barbie in their likeness. Did I want my own? Uh, yes. I think the dolls we play with as a child form part of an aspirational journey: it’s where you imagine your future life as a director, athlete or designer.
When you come on board, the team at Barbie asks for your requirements. Straight away, I said I wanted her to have muscles. Body positivity has come really far, but muscular women are still often left out of the discussion. Hair texture was also important. My Barbie has goddess braids, which are complex to emulate in real life, never mind on a doll, but they nailed it. Then there were my rings and earrings. It was important to me to show that when I perform, I’m my whole self, and you can be, too: whether that means lots of jewellery or long nails or no make-up.
The first time I saw the doll, my eyes went to her strong, powerful thighs, and it felt like a defining moment: this is what many sportswomen’s bodies look like. She has a spot in my trophy cabinet. It may seem strange to keep her among my medals, but it feels like a real cultural achievement. And as for eight-year-old me? She’d feel seen.”
The fastest woman in British history, Dina is the world 200m champion and won Olympic bronze in the 4x100m relay in 2016. In her downtime, she’s currently obsessed with dating show Love Is Blind.
Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.
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