July 12, 2021
(Reuters) – Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka now has her own line of Barbie dolls.
The 23-year-old world No. 2 tennis player, who has used her position to call attention to issues of police violence and racial inequality, became a part of Mattel Inc’s push to make its iconic toy line more diverse with dolls based on different role models and professions.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of the Barbie Role Model series, and to remind young girls that they can make a difference in the world. I want young girls everywhere to feel empowered to dream big,” Osaka, who grew up idolizing 23-times Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, said in a statement.
Mattel’s tie-up with Japan’s Osaka is the latest example of brands becoming more comfortable with taking a stand on social issues and banking on partnerships with female athletes to pull in new customers.
In April, Gap Inc’s Athleta brand signed four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles for a new apparel partnership, with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Mattel also has Barbie dolls modeled on U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
“Barbie is committed to celebrating real-life role models… remarkable women who are breaking boundaries and inspiring the next generation,” Mattel said in a statement, announcing the Osaka doll that is sporting a Nike tennis outfit and a racket.
Osaka, who did not compete in the Wimbledon championships for personal reasons, following her withdrawal from the French Open for a mental health break, will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics later this month.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)