As a child, Laverne Cox dreamed of owning a Barbie doll. Now she's being turned into one: 'It's never too late to have a happy childhood'

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Laverne Cox says as a child, she often asked for a Barbie doll.
Laverne Cox says as a child, she often asked for a Barbie doll. "My mother did not allow me to have one," she says. "It was painful." (Photo: Mattel)

Mattel's latest release recognizes award-winning actress, producer, writer and prominent LGBTQ advocate Laverne Cox. Just ahead of her 50th birthday on May 29, the Tribute Collection Barbie doll is the first to be modeled after a transgender person.

The accomplished actress, who rose to fame in her role of Sophia Burset in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, is not new to smashing glass ceilings. As a four-time Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer, she became the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a scripted television show. An advocate for using her voice and always living an authentic life, Cox embodies the values of Barbie's Tribute Collection, one that honors trailblazing women.

"We couldn't be more excited to celebrate ... Laverne Cox with a doll," shares Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel. "We are proud to highlight the importance of inclusion and acceptance at every age and to recognize Laverne's significant impact on culture."

The Laverne Cox Barbie doll will be available at Amazon, Walmart, Target and Mattel Creations starting May 25. (Photo: Mattel)
The Laverne Cox Barbie doll will be available at Amazon, Walmart, Target and Mattel Creations starting May 25. (Photo: Mattel)

As Barbie continues to increase its diverse collections, the iconic brand recognizes that representation matters and just how important it is that more people see themselves reflected in popular culture.

"It's been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll," Laverne Cox says. "I can't wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection."

"I hope people can look at this Barbie and dream big like I have in my career," she adds. "The space of dreaming and manifesting is such a powerful source and leads you to achieve more than what you originally thought was possible."

Barbie says it worked closely to honor the star by creating a doll that would reflect both her unique style and glamorous appearance. By researching past red carpet looks, the team recreated her Hollywood waves hairstyle and stunning makeup. Cox herself chose the color of deep oxblood red for her tulle gown as a reflection of her personal aesthetic. The outfit can be styled in many ways: The look is brought together with heeled boots, a sparkling silver metallic bodysuit and silver earrings. Down to even the doll's the skin tone and body sculpts, Cox was part of the process every step of the way before giving her final seal of approval.

Cox assisted the team who designed the doll in choosing everything from sculpting of her body to the color of her dress. (Photo: Mattel)
Cox assisted the team who designed the doll in choosing everything from sculpting of her body to the color of her dress. (Photo: Mattel)

In celebration of Cox's 50th birthday, Barbie is also making a donation in her name to TransFamilySOS, a nonprofit close to the actress's heart that's on a mission to create a more gender-affirming and accepting community.

Cox's journey to Barbie-status has been a long one. In 2018, a Change.org petition was started by fans, asking Mattel to create a doll in Cox's likeness. In additional video footage provided to Yahoo Life by Mattel for the doll's launch, Cox shared that her "Barbie story" goes even farther back to her childhood.

"As a kid I wanted a Barbie doll so badly, and my mother did not allow me to have one," Cox shares in the footage. "It was painful."

Getting her own Barbie was a full circle moment for Cox who improvised as a kid by making dolls to play with. "It's never too late to have a happy childhood," she says. "You have a little child that lives inside of you right now."

She adds that many years later, while in her 30s, her mother finally got her a Barbie doll for Christmas. She hopes through her Barbie doll, parents will be inspired to allow their kids to play with any toy they want.

"I hope parents out there who may be seeing this and their kids wants to play with Barbie — no matter what gender they were assigned with at birth, they say, 'Yay, you can go and do that, it's cool,'" she says.

Launched in 2021, the Barbie Tribute Series honors trailblazing women whose forward thinking and revolutionary visions forever changed the world for the better. Since then, the series has paid tribute to entertainment icon Lucille Ball and Queen Elizabeth II.

This is another step in Barbie's movement to inspire, uplift and encourage young girls everywhere, showing them their limitless potentials. Just last month, Barbie blasted off to the International Space Station National Lab as part of Mission DreamStar, NASA's collaboration with Mattel that encourages children to pursue careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Laverne Cox Barbie is available beginning May 25 at Amazon, Walmart, Target and Mattel Creations.

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