Each year at the Women and Girls Foundation, we recruit one hundred high school girls to become trained activists and future leaders through our GirlGov program. One of the most beautiful aspects of GirlGov is the diversity of the participants. They represent forty-four different schools and neighborhoods and attend public, private, and charter schools.
If you were to peer into a GirlGov classroom you would see a full spectrum of skin tone and hair styles. Girls with box braids and nubian twists sit alongside young women with hijab, natural hair, and pink hair. The group includes snapchat girls and star basketball players; violinists and poets; our country’s future members of congress, engineers, and Pulitzer Prize winners.
The girls are beautiful and brilliant and completely different from one another. And yet, as a mom, when I walk through the toy aisles, and when I stand in line at the grocery store perusing the covers of fashion magazines, the representations of what a “girl” or “woman” looks like are sadly still extremely limited.
That is why I have been thrilled to see a trend in the creation of dolls for children that represent more realistic, robust, and dynamic ideas of being and beauty.
The most recent of these, is a new line of dolls created by fashion designer and social-impact entrepreneur, Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, called Royelles.
“In a world with exclusive and unrealistic beauty ideals, girls are barraged with messages that negatively influence their self-image, self value and aspirations. Royelles Inc. offers something disruptively different! Rather than tell girls who they are not, Royelles Inc. gives all girls, everywhere, an immersive and holistic play experience centered around a collection of avatars that remind them that they are ENOUGH.” - Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, Royelles Inc.
I especially love the name of the collection – Royelles. Unlike the Disney and fairy princesses of the past, Royelles not only redefines what it means to be female royalty, but also serve as a reminder that many young African American women descend from royalty. Royelles can help girls connect to their inner beauty and pique their interest in their families’ heritage.
“I was heartbroken when my daughter shared with me that she thought she wasn’t pretty like her other friends,” CEO and Founder of Royelles, Inc., Múkami reflects. “I’ve spoken to hundreds of other mothers and it turns out that we’ve had the same experience and want the same things for our girls! We want them to know, deep down, that they are fierce, that they are more than enough, that they are fully equipped to do great things with their lives . We need them to know that a girls’ difference is her superpower” - Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, Royelles Inc.
And not only do young women need to feel more comfortable with their own bodies, they also can use more positive messages representing the diverse beauty of the adult women around them; Mothers, grandmothers, and Aunties who also have echoes of royal lines in their elegant necks and majestic hips. That is why I also appreciate that the Royelles line includes dolls representing girls and mothers.
Ms. Kinoti Kimotho refers to her dolls as “avatars”. Each equipped with individual personas and life missions. The designer also plans to have an interactive component that provides mothers and daughters the ability to send each other special messages through their avatars. Kinoti Kimotho is seeking to bring the first run of her Royelles collection to life through a Kickstarter campaign launching on August 1st and then accelerating design and production of a mobile application which will feature technology-enabled educational tools and interactive play connected to the avatars. With the Kickstarter campaign, Kinoti Kimotho hopes to place 1 million avatars in the hands of 1 million girls - regardless of socio-economic status.
Earlier this year, Angelica and Jason Sweeting secured a significant investment in their “Naturally Perfect Dolls” line on “Shark Tank.” In 2015, Yetlisha Jean-Charles had a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money to create a new line of natural hair dolls to provide young black girls a fun way to learn how to maintain and style their hair. And Nickolay Lamm crowdfunded a campaign for her “Normal Barbie” a doll based on the average, realistic measurements of a 19-year-old woman. And Lakeshore Learning has created an ingenious line of doll accessories which allow kids to equip their dolls with canes, unbreakable hearing aids, wheelchairs, glasses, and more.
All of this activity is a sign that our society is more than ready for the status quo of the outdated doll aisle to be disrupted and replaced. Women and girls of color will become the majority of women in the U.S. by 2050, and considering the $5 Billion toy market – there is plenty of room for new entrepreneurs and their products to thrive. Whether you are an investor or a parent, these new doll lines are a trend to watch and to celebrate.