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February 16, 2013

Mattel introduces bald doll for patients with hair loss.

A new doll for kids is creating controversy and it's not even in stores.

The Mattel has added to Barbie's list of friends with a doll named Ella. Ella, though, will only be available to certain children.

Children's hospitals all over the country can order Ella to give to their patients. 

 The doll has been specially made by Mattel after a national campaign convinced the company to create a bald doll, so kids with cancer or other kinds of hair loss would have someone that looks like them.

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Rusk wishes she would have had a doll like Ella growing up. Rusk has a condition called alopecia, which has left her bald since grade school. Rusk knows what its like to look different from the other kids.

"I just wanted to feel like I was normal," said Rusk about growing up without hair. "I never had a point where I was upset by it, but there was still that doubt in my mind, like should I not be wearing a wig."

Rusk said she's happy other kids without hair will now have a doll that looks like them.

"It's showing that our society's trying to change, because our society's so, like, 'This is how you need to look'," said Rusk.

Rusk's enthusiasm for Ella has been tempered, however, because of how the doll comes packaged. She's not bald at all, but wearing a wig.

"I'm honestly disappointed, just because I feel like it doesn't really show the message that being different is okay," explained Rusk. "I definitely feel like Mattel missed the mark."

Rusk isn't the only one. Dozens of people have expressed the same concerns on a blog called "Alopecia World." The blog offers support to people living with alopecia.

Even the National Alopecia Areata Foundation notes on its website, "NAAF was not involved in any way in the development or packaging of the Ella doll. Mattel made the determination that Ella would be wearing her wig in the packaging."

Ella's not going to be for sale, either, in toy stores or online. Just more evidence, said Rusk, that Mattel missed the boat when creating Ella.

"If you're going to just give it to kids that need it, I mean, sure they'll have it and it will be for support, but everyone else who needs to know that being different is okay, they're not going to get the message," explained Rusk.

Rusk said she even questions why Mattel decided Barbie's friend should be the bald one, instead of Barbie.

"Why can't Barbie be bald? I mean, there's nothing wrong with being bald or being different in any way," Rusk asked.

With Barbie's tremendous following and popularity, Rusk said Barbie would have been the better choice to deliver such a message.
A Mattel company spokesperson issued the following statement about Ella:

"Ella, Friend of Barbie, includes wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience. For those girls who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed. The doll is packaged wearing one of the wigs as an example of how girls can accessorize the doll.

"Ella Friend of Barbie, will be distributed exclusively to children's hospitals and other hospitals treating children with cancer throughout the U.S. and Canada, directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss and will not be available through any retail outlet.

"Mattel made the decision not to sell these dolls at retail stores and profit from them, but rather more directly and immediately get these into the hands of children who can most benefit from a play experience with these dolls. This decision demonstrates Mattel's commitment to encourage play as a respite for children in the hospital and bring joy to children in need.

"The dolls will be donated in the U.S. and Canada through the Children's Hospital Association, with whom Mattel has a long standing relationship, as well as through CureSearch for Children's Cancer. Dolls will also be donated to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. The dolls will be ready for donation and distribution by the end of January. Mattel will work with its subsidiaries in its international markets and will offer small quantities for donation as appropriate."

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