Kids like dolls that look like them. Or like their moms. Or have some sort of trait that is similar to them. Though I'm not Mexican, I remember as a kid seeing a Mexican Barbie and had to have her because she had dark hair like I did. Blonde Barbie was fun and all, but seeing one that looked like me made me happy. She was my favorite. I blame Ken for my weakness for men with blue eyes and expressionless faces. (I'm kidding. Sort of.)
One African American mom noticed this over-saturation of blonde and lack of color in so many of the dolls our kids play with and decided to do something about it. Karen Byrd started Natural Girls United and customizes dolls. On these dolls, she shows different skin tones and hairstyles. Right now Big Afro Doll, Brown Sister Locs Doll, and Dark Blonde Curly Locs Doll are the biggest sellers. But there are more.
This woman has talent! Byrd says on her website:
There have been quite a few studies done that show that African American boys and girls often think of black dolls as bad and white dolls as good. Of course, this is not something that the parent is teaching their child. So why are they getting these mixed messages about good and bad skin color, or good and bad hair? It all has to do with the images they see as they grow up. If a child is constantly looking at images, dolls, television, books, and magazines -- and only seeing beauty as something or someone with non-ethnic features and long, straight hair -- then they are going to assume that this is what beauty is. It is something that has hurt young people for centuries.
She's right. This whole standard of beauty hurts all of us in so many different ways. Kids especially because they grow up with these notions. It even hurts as adults. That's why plastic surgery is so popular. That's why I loved when Justine Bateman said she loves her wrinkles. That's why I love these dolls. If they can make Tattoo Barbie, they can make Afro Barbie, too. Or better yet, support a mom and buy one of Karen's. She has two daughters who are 12 and 14.
Sure there are African American dolls, but typically they have straight hair and Natural Girls United makes the dolls with a large range of hairstyles. "I had dolls that were gorgeous, but they didn't look like me. When I looked in the mirror, I would be confused -- like, am I beautiful?" she told The Huffington Post. Right now she has 51 people on the waiting list for customized dolls that take up to three days to craft. Looks like business is booming.
Which Natural Girls United doll is your favorite?
Images via Natural Girls United