“In this environment where trans kids are being attacked, this can be a celebration of transness, and a space for them to dream, understand and be reminded that trans is beautiful.”
Laverne Cox is starting her 50th year with quite the commemoration: Barbie is creating a doll in the star’s likeness as part of its Tribute Collection. The doll will be the first trans Barbie, a huge milestone for the toy brand that once had a reputation for not being inclusive. “What excites me most about her being out in the world,” Cox told People, “is that trans young people can see her and maybe get to purchase her and play with her, and know that there's a Barbie made by Mattel, for the first time, in the likeness of a trans person.”
She continued by speaking about the toy in the context of trans rights in the U.S. She said that trans children “have been used as a political football, when over 250 pieces of anti-trans legislation have been introduced in state legislatures all over the country in 2022 alone, and access to gender-affirming healthcare has been denied by policies signed into law in my home state of Alabama, in Arkansas and other states.” The Barbie, she said, “can also be a celebration of transness, and also a space for them to dream, understand and be reminded that trans is beautiful. That there's hope and possibility for them to be themselves.”
The Emmy-award winning actress has long been an LGBTQ+ icon and activist. She’s tirelessly worked to break down barriers for trans entertainers, and was the first trans woman of color to have a leading role in a scripted show on Orange Is The New Black. Having her own Barbie will be a wonderful way to propel her positive influence by connecting with fans in a new format.
Cox had a hands-on impact on the doll’s development. “I was like, ‘Can we make her look more like me? And more African American?’” she recalls asking the creative team. “We had a conversation about highlights and lowlights because I'm blonde most of the time now, but I'm a Black girl, so I need a dark root. And we had a whole conversation about how they can't do that, but they could do dark low lights.” It was also Cox’s suggestion to have the doll wear an outfit that could transform. “I wanted her to wear multiple outfits, but that wasn't cost-effective. You want the doll to be affordable,” she explained. “So I was like, ‘What if she had one outfit that could peel off and become multiple outfits?’” The doll wears a deep red gown with a tulle skirt and corset top, underneath of which is a silver bodysuit and pumps.
Cox’s Barbie is made even more special by her sentimental connection to the nostalgic toy. “I begged my mother [as a child] for a Barbie doll and she said no because I was assigned male at birth,” she revealed. “And when I was in my 30s, I was in therapy and telling my therapist that I was denied the opportunity to play with Barbie dolls. And my therapist said, ‘It's never too late to have a happy childhood, and what you should do for your inner child is go out and buy yourself a Barbie doll.’” And Cox did exactly that. The story had an even happier turn when Cox told her mother about the experience of buying the doll and playing with it. “And that first Christmas after that, my mom sent me a Barbie doll. And she's been sending me Barbies for Christmas and for my birthday.” Cox continued, “So to be turning 50 years old and be transgender and have a Barbie in my life, that feels just like a full-circle kind of healing moment. ... I hope it'll be healing for all the people who encounter the Laverne Cox Tribute Barbie.” Cox’s Barbie comes out just ahead of her May 29 birthday, and can be purchased for $39 at Amazon, Walmart, Target, and directly from Mattel.