(Reuters) – Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka now has her own line of Barbie dolls.
The 23-year-old world No. 2 tennis player, who used her position to call attention to issues of police violence and racial inequality, has become part of Mattel Inc’s push to make its toy line iconic more diverse with dolls based on different models and professions.
“It is such an honor to be a part of the Barbie Role Model series and to remind young girls that they can make a difference in the world. I want young girls around the world to feel empowered to dream big, ”Osaka, who grew up idolizing 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, said in a statement.
Mattel’s tie-up with Japanese-based Osaka is the latest example of brands becoming more comfortable taking a stand on social issues and leveraging partnerships with female athletes to attract new customers.
In April, Gap Inc’s Athleta brand signed four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles for a new apparel partnership focused on diversity and inclusion.
Mattel also has Barbie dolls modeled on American footballer Alex Morgan and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.
“Barbie is committed to celebrating real-life models… remarkable women who push the boundaries and inspire the next generation,” Mattel said in a statement, announcing the Osaka doll wearing Nike tennis outfit and racquet.
Osaka, who did not make it to the Wimbledon Championships for personal reasons following his retirement from Roland Garros for a mental health break, will compete in the Tokyo Olympics later this month.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bangalore; editing by Shinjini Ganguli)