Olympic Gymnast Laurie Hernandez Just Received Her Own Lookalike Barbie: 'She Has My Curls!'
Laurie Hernandez has a mini-me!
The 18-year-old Olympic gymnast grew up playing with Barbie dolls, much like many kids around the world. But she says she never imagined she'd have her own. Now, the Mattel team is honoring the athlete — who dominated alongside the Final Five in the 2016 Rio Olympics — with her very own “Shero” doll, made completely in her likeness.
“She has my curls! She has my eyes! She has my nose!” Hernandez gushes to PEOPLE. “It's incredible to look at because when I was a little girl, I would play with Barbie dolls that had my hair color and my eye color. But this one really does look like me and I think it's gonna resemble a lot of little girls out there.”
Since 2015, Mattel has honored women who break boundaries through its “Shero” doll collection, with dolls fashioned after Ibtihaj Muhammad, Misty Copeland, Gabby Douglas, Ava Duvernay and more. And Hernandez says she's honored to be among some of her greatest role models.
“Just knowing that I could be one of those girls — those are people that I look up to — I remember as a little girl looking up to many different women,” the tells PEOPLE. “There were a lot of people that inspired me and I hope that I can be that as well for other girls who may look at my doll and see a gymnast and now they want to be a gymnast as well.”
The Laurie Hernandez Barbie, available at Walmart, is sculpted to the athlete's likeness and comes with two colorful leotards designed by Hernandez. The doll is fully posable and, as Hernandez says, “moves like a gymnast.” The toy also comes with sweatpants and a gym bag.
Of all the doll's qualities, though, Hernandez says her favorite is certainly the hair.
“As a little girl I was pretty self conscious about my curls and how crazy and frizzy and knotty they were,” the gymnast says. “But as I got older I realized that my curls are beautiful and I should embrace them. Now that I have this doll that has hair like mine, it's gonna have curls like many other people out there. I think that representation is a very big deal … It's an honor.”
On Tuesday, Hernandez shared a sweet Instagram photo of herself sporting her signature wide smile as she held the doll. She captioned the shot: “GUYS!! I'm so excited to announce the launch of my very own “Shero” @barbie ! Breaking boundaries and reminding all girls that you can be ANYTHING.”
Hernandez spoke excitedly as she recalled the moments she first learned she'd have her own doll. Naturally, she says, the first person she called was her mother.
“I've always dreamed of having my own barbie, but I never knew that it was actually going to happen. The first person I called was my mom … I call my mom for everything really,” she tells PEOPLE. “When I did get the news that I would have my own Barbie and that she would be in Walmart for other people to pick up I was on top of the world. I was on cloud nine. I still am on cloud nine! I feel like it's breaking barriers for myself.”
Hernandez — who's upcoming children's book She's Got This is expected out in October — says she keeps the doll in an extra special place.
“She's in my room right now, chillin!” Hernandez says. “She's on my dresser looking good!”