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Limb Different Dancer’s Journey Comes Full Circle as Bionic Barbie

Jul 31, 2023 |

By Jewel Connelly, Communications Specialist

Known for her Barbie Dreamhouse, impressive resume, and iconic style, Barbie is a pop culture phenomenon and has played a significant role in empowering young girls to be whatever they choose. 

As the new Barbie movie draws viewers of all ages who remember playing with their favorite dolls, some audience members may connect with a particular Bionic Barbie. Featured with and without her golden prosthetic arm (which accents her golden accessories perfectly by the way), this Barbie shows that you can have a limb difference and still be anything you want to be – including a fashionable member of the presidential cabinet! For Ashley Young, the opportunity to channel her inner Barbie is especially personal as it embodies the representation she desired to see growing up. 

Ashley was born without her right arm below the elbow due to amniotic band syndrome. Growing up in the small rural community of Chuluota, Florida, she never saw or encountered anyone with a limb difference until she was eight years old. At times it even felt like she was the only person on Earth who had a limb difference, but from the beginning Ashley’s mom was there to instill in her daughter a growth mindset. “My mom told me whatever your sister does, you can do,” Ashley shared. “She never gave me an option to quit.” Living on a horse farm, both Ashley and her twin sister rode and having to figure out adaptive solutions early on shaped how she learned to approach all challenges. “My mom’s mindset was to let me figure it out and it has made me really independent as an adult,” she said. 

Pursuing her passion for dance is ultimately what led Ashley to land a role in Barbie. After high school she worked for several years as a dance performer at Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras. Upon moving to London, Ashley immediately signed on to be represented by Zebedee, an inclusive talent agency, and launched a career in modeling and commercial acting. Little did she know one Instagram message from Take 3 Agency would open an even greater door of opportunity to audition as an amputee dancer for Barbie.  

In the movie Ashley even wears her actual prosthetic device, a gold arm with a Covvi Nexus robotic hand, which appears in multiple scenes. “This opportunity to represent limb difference means the entire world to me,” she shared. “My life goal is to make sure that no kid with a limb difference feels the way that I felt growing up because it was a very strange and lonely existence. To be seen on this scale gives me a lot of hope that I’ll be able to change a lot of kids’ lives and perspectives on themselves. I feel like this movie has given me a platform to make sure they feel represented and that’s the most important thing to me.” With her preschool age daughter calling her “mommy Barbie,” it appears her portrayal is already making an impression! 

Even in her own life Ashley has discovered the tremendous value of finding community and working on projects with other limb different clients represented by her agency. Making connections with people who really understand and can relate is something she encourages for anyone living with limb loss or limb difference. 

With Barbie claiming the top spot at the box office in a record-setting opening weekend (with no indication of slowing down), this film has a unique opportunity to communicate a powerful message to a worldwide audience. Without speaking a word, Bionic Barbie’s presence speaks volumes about what beauty can look like. “I hope that the audience knows that every body and difference is absolutely beautiful, and they completely have a space in the Barbie world and Hollywood films as well,” Ashley said. Spoken by a real-life Bionic Barbie. 

Follow Ashley on Instagram (@orlandocyborgashley) and look for her in the Barbie movie which is currently out in theaters.