Teen hopes for wider distribution for 'bald friend of Barbie' doll

Olivia Rusk

10-year-old Emily Del Vecchio loves Barbie's long blond hair. 
It reminds her of a time when Emily had long blond hair before bone cancer came, along with long hospital stays and chemotherapy.

Emily relates to a different image more these days, one of Barbie without hair. Until recently though, there wasn't such an image.
A campaign on Facebook, one which calls for a bald Barbie, has changed all that. Mattel has announced it will be creating a doll, a friend of Barbie, who will be bald.

"I like it," says Emily of the idea. "Its okay to be bald," she adds.

Emily has had to learn that though and it hasn't been an easy lesson. "I was afraid people would laugh at me," she says of losing her hair.

"It was very very traumatic. She didn't want to be seen in public," recalls her dad Joe of the early days when Emily first lost her hair. "I think its a great step towards legitimatizing the fact that hair doesn't make the person."

Mattel has made the decision not to sell the doll in retail stores, but instead to distribute the dolls to childrens' hospitals across the country. But a Fishers teenager says a bald Barbie doll belongs right in the mainstream, where all kids can learn from her.

"If you're wanting to make a Barbie doll that's different, and you're wanting to show kids who are different that they can be different, why not show it to normal kids so that they can accept the different kids," says 15-year-old Olivia Rusk.

Olivia knows what's its like to love Barbie, but not look anything like her. "I grew up wanting to be blonde," remember Olivia.

Instead, Olivia grew up bald because of alopecia, a condition that makes her hair fall out. 

"I would sit in my room and braid the Barbie's hair, because I couldn't braid my hair," says Olivia.

"If I had had a bald Barbie, I know I would have been able to cope with my baldness a lot easier," she says.

Today, Olivia copes just fine.  She speaks to kids about looking different and even written a book about it, titled Just Your Average Teenager Who Happens to Be Bald.

"Being different is ok," says Olivia of the book's message.

Emily Del Vecchio is learning that too. "It's one little step just to take the hair off a doll," says Emily's dad Joe.

Now Emily's got Barbie on her side to teach her that.