Since 2012, Mattel has quietly been producing a doll that has never made it to the shelves of Toys ‘R’ Us or onto an online store site. The doll’s name is Ella, and she’s part of the Barbie clan. However, Ella is a little different from Skipper or Ken — she has cancer. As a result of chemo, she is bald.
Mattel started producing Ella as a way to give girls suffering from cancer comfort and a character that they can relate to. Instead of making the dolls available for retail, the manufacturer distributes them to hospitals around the U.S.
According to Melissa Bumstead, mother to a four-year-old with cancer, Ella is more than just a toy.
“We had no idea how we would tell [our daughter] that she would soon be losing her beautiful, curly blonde hair,” Bumstead said. “When the charge nurse brought us Ella, I cried. She is in a very fancy dress and still looks like a beautiful Barbie that any child would be excited to play with... and relate to.”
Unfortunately, the hospital where Bumstead’s daughter was being treated only had six Ella dolls, and they soon ran out. This led Bumstead to start a petition asking Mattel to make more of the toy.
Three months later, her petition had 10,000 signatures. It didn’t take Mattel long to agree to ramp up their production of Ella dolls.
"We make Ella for just one reason — because it's the right thing to do,"Mattel spokesperson Alex Clark told Yahoo. "The idea is that a boy or girl can play and interact with a fashion doll that is going through what they're going through. Ella is not a doll we will ever sell. It's a donation we make."
Between Ella and Entrepreneurship Barbie, it seems that Mattel truly is is expanding the definition of Barbie, one doll at a time.