Move over Queen Elizabeth, there’s another “kween” in Barbie’s Tribute Collection, and she’s making history. The beloved toy brand, Mattel, has recently added Lavern Cox to the list of influential people that has received a Barbie doll dedicated in their honor.
The actress and activist is being recognized for her advocacy for LGBTQ rights, and her doll will be the first-ever transgender Barbie.
Known for her role in Orange Is The New Black, she became a trailblazer in queer rights as the first transgender person of color to land a leading role in a scripted series, and she has used her platform ever since to support others in their journey as much as possible.
The star, who turns 50 on Sunday, spoke with PEOPLE on Tuesday about the “surreal” launch of the doll, saying, “I can't believe it. I love her outfit. What excites me most about her being out in the world is that trans young people can see her and maybe get to purchase her and play with her, and know that there's a Barbie made by Mattel, for the first time, in the likeness of a trans person."
As the conversation of transgender rights, especially among children, is still considered to be a controversial topic, Laverne shares, "I think in an environment where trans children have been used as a political football, when over 250 pieces of anti-trans legislation have been introduced in state legislatures all over the country in 2022 alone, and access to gender-affirming healthcare has been denied by policies signed into law in my home state of Alabama, in Arkansas and other states — that in this environment where trans kids are being attacked, that this can also be a celebration of transness, and also a space for them to dream, understand and be reminded that trans is beautiful. That there's hope and possibility for them to be themselves."
The Inventing Anna actress revealed she was quite involved in the design process for the doll, and was frank in asking, "Can we make her look more like me? And more African American?'"
Working with Mattel’s creative team, she didn’t hold back in sharing the vision she had for it, expressing to them “We had a conversation about highlights and lowlights because I'm blonde most of the time now, but I'm a Black girl, so I need a dark root. And we had a whole conversation about how they can't do that, but they could do dark low lights."
That being said, the doll is still dripping in glamour, authentic to Laverne’s aesthetic who is no stranger to the red carpet. The toy features a glitzy jumpsuit and a chic evening gown alternate.
"I wanted her to wear multiple outfits, but that wasn't cost-effective. You want the doll to be affordable. So I was like, 'What if she had one outfit that could peel off and become multiple outfits?'" she says. "So that's what we designed and came up with," Cox shared.
The Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel also spoke with PEOPLE, stating “We are proud to highlight the importance of inclusion and acceptance at every age and to recognize Laverne's significant impact on culture with a Tribute Collection Barbie."
Cox expressed her sorrow in not being able to have dolls of her own during childhood, saying "I begged my mother for a Barbie doll and she said no because I was assigned male at birth. When I was in my 30s, I was in therapy and telling my therapist that I was denied the opportunity to play with Barbie dolls. And my therapist said, 'It's never too late to have a happy childhood, and what you should do for your inner child is go out and buy yourself a Barbie doll.' "
She took the therapist's advice, and it paved the way for something extraordinary, something that still gets her emotional to this day. The Emmy award-winning performer shared "I played with my Barbie, and I told my mom what my therapist had said. And that first Christmas after that, my mom sent me a Barbie doll," she reveals. "And she's been sending me Barbies for Christmas and for my birthday."
As Cox reflects on her upbringing and her opportunity to create this doll, she admits “I'm just so grateful that I've been able to be in this process. It's a process of reclaiming my inner child, healing her, giving her what she didn't have the first go-round. Giving those things to her now. And Barbie is a very tangible part of that.”
She gushes that this milestone in her life has become a “full-circle kind of healing moment.”
“I'm so grateful to Mattel for this moment, just for my own, just for my own personal healing. "I hope it'll be healing for all the people who encounter the Laverne Cox Tribute Barbie," Cox says.
*buys doll immediately*
The Laverne Cox Barbie, in Mattel’s Tribute Collection, is now available on the company’s site.