Strictly Come Dancing star Rose Ayling-Ellis and Mattel have unveiled the first Barbie with behind-the-ear hearing aids.
The EastEnders actor, who won the dance reality show in 2021 after becoming the first deaf contestant to appear on Strictly, features in the new Rose, Barbie & Friends campaign.
Ayling-Ellis is among the cast of diverse models who inspired Mattel’s new line of dolls, which includes the first Ken doll with vitiligo, a Barbie with a prosthetic leg, and another in a wheelchair.
Ayling-Ellis, 27, who has been deaf since birth, acknowleged that “it’s so important for children to be able to see themselves represented in the toys they play with”, in a statement.
“When I was little, I would draw hearing aids on to my Barbie dolls to make them look like me, so I am thrilled that Mattel is releasing more dolls that encourage kids to celebrate and embrace their differences,” she continued.
Ayling-Ellis is no stranger to breaking boundaries, having become the first deaf actor on EastEnders when she joined the soap in May 2020, playing Frankie Lewis – the daughter of Danny Dyer’s Mick Carter.
In May this year, she also became the first celebrity to sign a CBeebies bedtime story.
On 8 May, Ayling-Ellis made her debut in the CBeebies story corner, telling the tale in British Sign Language of a young bear and his father on their journey into the discovery and management of deafness.
Educational audiologist Dr Jen Richardson, who worked with Mattel in order to accurately portray the hearing aids, said she was “honoured” to be part of the project.
“I’m beyond thrilled for my young patients to see and play with a doll who looks like them,” she said in a statement.
Rosie Eggleston, participation manager at the National Deaf Children’s Society, called the launch a “really positive step towards inclusion”.
“It will also mean a lot to those deaf children who wear hearing aids because they’ll see their own experiences reflected in a truly mainstream toy,” she added, noting that the new line of dolls could help children “to be proud of their deafness” and open up to “their friends about what it’s really like to be deaf”.
The Orange Is The New Black actor said it was “surreal” to be honoured by Mattel for her impact as a campaigner for LGBT+ rights.
The Barbie Fashionistas line is available in the UK from Thursday (18 August).
Additional reporting by PA