Blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie dolls once took over the aisles of toy stores as the only plastic playmates offered to young girls.
Now, those same aisles are gradually adding diversity with the inclusion of dolls that reflect deeper-skin tones and ethnic hair.
Dr. Lisa Williams is one woman who has put great effort into executing this mission to celebrate the diversity in multicultural children.
William’s is the founder and creator of Positively Perfect Dolls — a unique line of baby dolls that represent and reflect the beautiful features found in young African-American girls.
The dolls come in a variety of specific skin tones — including vanilla, caramel, pecan and mocha. The skin colors are even custom-blended to perfect the right shade, glow and undertone that ultimately resemble realistic results.
“It’s very meticulous chemistry but I do to actually come up with the right skin tone,” Williams told theGrio in a phone interview. “That is not done with the dolls in the general marketplace.”
Most dolls offered in stores fail to accurately reflect the changing demographic of America. Minority populations continue to expand and yet, the changing face of consumers is not being accurately reflected in the dolls manufacturing companies make.
“The features do not represent our features,” Williams said. “I start from scratch, I sketch them out. I know how those lips should look, I know how the brown of their eyes should be. I know about the fullness of the lips, the shape of the face, I know that because it’s in my heart and in my vision and that’s what differentiates our dolls from anyone else. So when people see them they see and feel that difference.”
Williams has a stellar record of making history — she graduated with her doctorate from Ohio University and in doing so became the first African-American to receive a PhD from the university’s College of Business.
“I received my doctorate in 1992 and so the idea that there had not been a person of color to receive a doctorate until then, it’s a bittersweet accomplishment,” Williams said. “I’m proud but not happy that I was the first.”
She then went on to become a professor at a number of school institutions across the nation, including Kent State where she was the first African-American woman to earn tenure.
After some soul-searching, Williams decided to leave the academy and started doing keynotes, executive training and authored her first book, which gave insight on business and leadership skills. Walmart soon sold the book in its stores and after witnessing a high level of success, store executives asked Williams to launch a line of children’s books.
“I wanted to make sure that they were 1. inspiring and 2. representative,” Williams said, going on to share that she and her team published 15 books over the course of three years.
It was through this initiative that Williams was approached to create a line of dolls with the same image and likeness as the characters of her books.
“I’ll tell you at that point, I actually said no because I knew nothing about dolls and said this was really outside of my core area of expertise,” Williams admitted.
That lasted until she saw a segment on CNN that explored a study showing young black girls and their reactions to various white and brown-colored dolls.
“One little [black] girl broke my heart, she looked at the brown doll and said the doll was ugly. I cried, it broke my heart,” Williams said. “For her to say something like that it shows you how deep those sentiments are in our culture.”
Williams then made it her mission to manufacture dolls that minority girls would soon come to admire and love.
“What I’m trying to do with these dolls is to give parents a tool to show their kids just how beautiful they are,” Williams said. “What I didn’t have in doll manufacturing expertise, I had in passion and love and commitment for our children.”
When the line first launched, only two dolls were sold in only a few hundred Wal Mart location. Now, the Positively Perfect Dolls are sold in every Walmart store across the nation. The collection has even recently released The Latina D.I.V.A.H (Dignified, Intelligent, Vivacious, Attractive, and Humanitarian) in Walmart stores nationwide.
Most of the dolls price around $10 with some specialty dolls that don’t run over $20.
“I’m creating these dolls from my heart,” Williams said. “The most rewarding part is seeing the children with their girls dolls and they’re so excited and they’re saying mommy, she looks just like me!”
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works