“‘Hey, you’re definitely doing this one. It’s probably the coolest thing you’ve ever done.'” That what Madison de Rozario’s manager said when he told her she was going to be Barbie’s 2020 “Shero” doll.
“It’s surreal,” the Paralympian told Women’s Health. “It’s amazing. I think younger me would have never believed it. That I, personally, would be a doll. But that someone that looks like me, would be so visible. So, honestly, it really is an amazing, amazing experience. The whole thing.”
de Rozario worked closely with the Barbie team to create her likeness, which features her iconic shock of platinum hair and top knot, racing wheelchair and palm guards.
“It was a lot of communication at first, just trying to like get the doll perfect,” she said. “You know, with the race chair and all the measurements, and then the actual doll and all the features.”
The Olympian follows the likes of Bindi Irwin, Ita Buttrose and over 50 other incredible role models in their field who have been immortalised in one-of-a-kind, figurine form to inspire limitless potential in every young girl.
Despite being considered one of the best in the world at wheelchair racing – she won two silver medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games for the 1500m T54 final and marathon T54, became the first Aussie to win the women’s wheelchair race at the London Marathon, and equalled the world record for the 1500m T53-54 at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix – she says the title of role model is something de Rozario has had to grow into.
“I think it’s something that took me a little while to come to terms with,” the 26-year-old said. “I think if you are representing an under-represented community, you need to do a really, dang good job of it. And that’s a big responsibility.”
de Rozario says that although she was shocked at first by the reach and impact she could have, it’s now the most important part of what she does.
“It’s more than the sport and the individual accomplishment. It’s about what I can do with this platform that the sport has helped build and Barbie is helping me to have an even bigger base to spread that message. I’m grateful for it now.”
Growing up without seeing herself reflected in toys and popular culture, this process has been particularly important for de Rozario.
“Making sure that girls are seeing themselves reflected every time… that you can have a doll that looks like you growing up. I think that’s so important that you can be anything, and if you can see it, you can be it. And I think that’s exactly what Barbie has been pushing and they’re doing the most authentic job of it I’ve ever seen.”
de Rozario also highlights that moving in the direction of visibility over representation is critical.
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