Barbie celebrates athletes around the world with role-model dolls

Barbie's new role-model dolls feature nine athletes who have broken boundaries around the world, including American professional tennis player Venus Williams. Mattel said it hopes the dolls and their stories will "foster self-confidence, ambition and empowerment among the next generation." Photo courtesy of Mattel

May 22 (UPI) -- In celebration of Barbie's 65th anniversary, Mattel is honoring nine athletes who have broken boundaries around the world with role-model dolls in their likeness to "encourage girls to stay in sports and recognize their full potential."

The nine dolls, which include American professional tennis player Venus Williams, were unveiled Wednesday along with their stories of struggle and achievement to inspire young girls and increase their self-confidence.

"I am honored to be recognized as a sports role model and join forces with Team Barbie to continue empowering the next generation of young girls to never stop believing in their dreams," said Williams, who has won four Olympic gold medals and was the first woman in tennis to earn equal prize money at Wimbledon.

"Throughout my career, I've always been driven by the idea of shattering glass ceilings and staying true to myself, and Barbie's mission couldn't resonate more deeply with that ethos," Williams added.

The other eight athletes to be honored with Barbie Role-Model dolls include high-scoring soccer player Christine Sinclair of Canada, Australia's youngest football player Mary Fowler, Olympic champion boxer Estelle Mossely of France and World medal gymnast Alexa Moreno of Mexico.

Olympic gold and silver medal-winning gymnast Rebeca Andrade of Brazil was also celebrated with a doll in her likeness, along with paratriathlon athlete Susana Rodriguez of Spain, Olympic gold medal swimmer Federica Pellegrini of Italy and top-ranked European track and field sprinter Ewa Swoboda of Poland.

Mattel announced Wednesday it would also extend its partnership with VOICEINSPORT, a digital sport platform that connects girls to educational content and mentors, including virtual mentorship through next year with the Barbie Role Models.

"Barbie is thrilled to continue the brand's 65th anniversary celebration by recognizing the impact of sports in fostering self-confidence, ambition and empowerment among the next generation," Krista Berger, senior vice president of Barbie at Mattel, said in a statement.

"The sports one-of-a-kind role model dolls serve as an embodiment of our shared values of passion, empowerment and individuality," Berger added. "By shining a light on these inspirational athletes and their stories, we hope to champion the belief that every young girl deserves the opportunity to pursue her passions and turn her dreams into reality."