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Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad: A Voice For The Voiceless

By Victor Gee

Ibtihaj Muhammad is a 2016 Olympic medalist in fencing, and is the first American woman to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab.

In a session entitled Changing the Game: Evolving from Athlete to Creator during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Ibtihaj talked about the defining moments of her career and her upcoming collaboration with Mattel for the very first veiled Barbie doll.

How do you use your platform for advocacy and bringing in the conversation about minorities?
I use my platform not only for myself but also for others. And I have learned that from many of the athletes I look up to. I am persistent on using my platform in a way that is effective to society.

Tell us more about the importance of having a veiled Barbie doll inspired by you
I have always been the queen of Barbies myself, and it meant so much to me. It allowed me to see myself in different spaces, like a firefighter, a housewife, or just owning a pool with a three-story house.

Having a company like Mattel deciding to be inclusive and diverse is very important, and especially for young girls and how they view themselves early on. For instance, growing up my mom would bring us brown dolls to feel associated. And the veiled Barbie is not only for Muslim girls but for non-Muslim kids as well. It will help them better understand the world.

What is your advice to younger generations?
One of my greatest life lessons is learning to trust myself. I was always told that there are many things that I couldn’t do. Society tries to put as in a box as women, as people of color or of a certain religion. I love a challenge and I like to prove that not only I can do it, but I can even do it better than you. I wish I had learned even earlier that what people have to say really doesn’t matter, and I think having this mindset allowed me to be qualified to the US Olympic team. Remember that your dreams are unique to you!

By Victor N.