Who Doesn’t Want a Barbie That Looks Like Them?

By Amanda Scherker, HuffingtonPost.com

If you’ve ever tried to find a black doll at your local toy store, you may have noticed they usually come with tamed, straightened hairstyles. But one California mom, fed-up with that status quo, started a business making dolls with a fabulously diverse spectrum of natural hairdos — and her products are proving to be pretty popular. imgres

Karen Byrd, founder of Natural Girls United, customizes dolls to give them natural hairstyles not typically seen on those sold in stores. As a child, Byrd remembers wondering why she didn’t resemble her straight-haired, white dolls.url

“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?” Byrd told The Huffington Post.

While toy shopping for two of her daughters, now 14 and 12, Byrd was stunned to discover the same lack of diversity in contemporary toy stores. It was time to do something about it; she started her own business in 2011. (…)

Many would argue these natural hair dolls provide a much-needed dose of diversity to an often homogenous doll selection — an issue recently described in a Collectors Weekly article.

“I’m emphatic about a black child having a doll that reflects who she is. When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black,” Debbie Behan Garrett, the author of Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion, told Collector’s Weekly. (…)r-BROWN-SISTER-LOCS-large570

And while mainstream toy companies are producing more black dolls, the representation of natural hairstyles remains limited. Indeed, toy company Mattel’s Barbie brand generated controversy in 2009 when it launched a line of black Barbie dolls with straight hair. Even today, Barbie’s black dolls still typically sport sleek, straight hair or stylized ‘dos, such as those seen on Ballgown Barbie or Air Force Barbie.r-BIG-AFRO-DOLL-large570

Given this limited mainstream selection, smaller toy companies have found their niche marketing more diverse alternatives. The Pattycake Doll Company, for example, seeks to provide dolls generally not found at other stores, including black baby dolls with natural hairstyles, Hispanic dolls, Asian dolls, biracial dolls, and dolls for boys. (…)

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