In early 2018, a Change.org petition advocating for award-winning actress, producer and prominent LGBTQ+ activist Laverne Cox to become the first trans woman to have a Barbie doll created in her likeness began to make its rounds on the Internet. 

The creator of the petition argued that Cox, who became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award for her groundbreaking performance as Sophia Burset on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, deserved to have a signature Barbie doll. 

Cox responded to the creator—who garnered more than 1,600 signatures on the petition in just a few days—on Twitter, saying, “I would love to be a Barbie doll.” 

Fast forward more than four years later, Cox has manifested that dream into a reality. 

As part of Barbie’s Tribute Collection, which launched last year to highlight cultural trailblazers, the iconic brand created a signature Barbie doll for Cox to honor the impact she’s made not only in her pioneering career, but also for the continued work she’s done to champion LGBTQ+ rights. The Laverne Cox Barbie doll will be the first one made in the likeness of an openly transgender person. 

Cox’s Barbie doll was released on May 25—just a few days before her 50th birthday and head of PRIDE month—for $39.99 via Amazon, Walmart, Target and Mattel Inc.’s website

Jen Paul

“It’s a hard thing to process for myself,” Cox tells ESSENCE. She adds that the moment is even more significant as she reflects on “turning 50 and having a Barbie in my image as a 50-year-old woman. But then also as a 50-year-old trans woman [during] this time when trans kids are under such relentless attack by state legislators all over this country.” 

She notes that this year alone, more than 250 pieces of legislation targeting trans children in terms of their access to gender affirming care and their ability to play sports have been introduced in the United States.

“[My doll] is coming at a time when we really need to elevate the stories and the lived experiences of real trans people and the lived experiences of trans children,” she says.

She admits she doesn’t remember seeing the Change.org petition, but says the pivotal moment she realized that it was possible for her to get a Barbie doll was when she saw award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay receive one in 2015. 

After seeing DuVernay’s doll, “I remember saying to my manager Paul Hilepo, ‘I want a Barbie!’ Cox explains. “I think he said ‘Oh, we’ll work on it’ or something, and then like about a year and half ago, Mattel approached us about doing this.”

Photographer Elizabeth Braunstein

Inspired by some of the memorable looks that the star has worn on red carpets over the years, the Laverne Cox doll features a multifaceted ensemble, including sparkly heeled boots that resemble leggings and a deep, oxblood red tulle gown that can be detached to reveal a silver metallic bodysuit underneath. Cox initially wanted the doll to come with multiple outfits, but she opted for one look that could function in multiple ways in an effort to keep the cost accessible, she says. 

To complete the look, her Barbie doll is styled with dazzling silver earrings, her hair is swept into glamorous Hollywood waves and she’s rocking fierce, smokey eye makeup. 

The doll’s packaging includes an image of Cox along with an inspiring quote from the actress herself: “It’s important with all the messages that might tell you otherwise that you have it within yourself to say that ‘I am smart, I am beautiful. I’m Amazing. I’m enough.’”

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