Mattel, Inc. recently announced plans to make a bald “Friend of Barbie” doll — complete with scarf, hat and wig accessories. Hospitalized children with hair loss from cancer treatment and children with alopecia will receive the doll through nonprofit organizations.
Originally packaged as the “Teen Age Fashion Model,” Barbie has been a product synonymous with doll dress-up since 1959.
“Barbie is a staple toy,” said Jennifer Guilliams, senior child life specialist at The Children’s Hospital at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. She hopes the hospital will receive a quantity of the yet-unnamed “Friend of Barbie.”
Guilliams supports the use of the new doll as children are already familiar with the product line. In an interview, Guilliams said that while they have played with other dolls after removing the hair, “the Barbie brand is familiar and the children will easily relate to it. It is fantastic.”
Guilliams explained that the degree of hair loss varies among patients up to 18 years, and therapies are being offered to help with acceptance — discussions on how they may feel differently from their peers, body changes and self-image.
“We help the children come to terms with and master their treatment,” she says. Dolls, art therapy, and children’s storybooks specifically written about hair loss and cancer are all tools used at The Children’s Hospital.
The concept for the limited production of 10,000 bald Mattel dolls came as a result of a successful Facebook petition in January. A huge social media response triggered traditional media to cover the story. Four months later, Mattel reversed its original decision not to create the doll. The company does not take solicitations for product ideas.
Children’s Hospital Association, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, as well as the National Alopecia Areata Foundation will distribute the dolls to patients. The dolls will ship this December or in January of next year.
In response to wide interest in such a product, Mattel competitor MGA is creating its own bald “True Hope” Bratz and Moxie Girlz dolls for sale at Toys “R” Us stores in June. This may be of interest to those wishing to help children whose family members undergo hair and eyebrow loss. One dollar of each “True Hope” purchase will go to cancer research at City of Hope.