Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Celebration of Niya's 20th Anniversary

Original Here Comes Niya dolls... hundreds of them -- Photographs courtesy of Niya A. Cotton and Darla Davenport-Powell

Because the original Here Comes Niya doll turns 20 this year. I was inspired to invite the doll's creator,  Darla Davenport-Powell to be a guest blogger to share the doll's story.  Darla did one better by allowing the person who inspired the doll's creation, her daughter, the real Niya to conduct the guest blogging honors.  

My Double Life—A 20-year journey as the Niya Doll

--Niya A. Cotton 10/27/11

There is a saying that goes: “You only live once.” Well, in my case, I've lived twice. For as long as I can remember, I've had two lives. By day I went to school, dance classes, choir rehearsals and acted in plays. By night, I shrunk several feet, spoke three languages and became a best friend to thousands of young girls all across the world. I became...THE NIYA DOLL!

This 20 year journey of The Niya Doll project has had many ups and many downs. It's not easy walking a path that hasn't been paved. It's not easy getting people to believe in your vision. It's not easy to be a light in total darkness. But has that stopped my mom, Darla Davenport-Powell, the creator of the Niya Doll? NOT A CHANCE! I have never seen someone so adamant and ferociously tenacious about something that they believe in wholeheartedly. My mom created a doll that looked and sounded like me. She couldn't find any toys that represented our experience, so she did what she knew to do...she created one! At one point, I remember that there were hundreds of "me" in our basement!!! My mom has driven this Niya Doll project to schools, churches, conferences, seminars, radio shows and even to the ABC hit television show, American Inventor. She showed America how desperately important it is for our children to be affirmed through products and images that look like themselves. It's my belief that everyone just wants to belong somewhere and if our children don't get a positive push toward their purpose...they will take it upon themselves to find a place to belong.

Some would think that after becoming a finalist on American Inventor, everything would fall into place. Companies and manufacturers would call incessantly to be the first to catapult this dream to the next level. Millions of dollars would be offered because distributors would see how financially beneficial this idea would become...NOPE! It's not easy getting people to believe in your vision. It's not easy to be a light in total darkness. This has been a slow and steady taxiing of yes's and no's but I believe with all my heart that lift off is up ahead!

The Niya project is just getting started! I have a dream that one day young school children will be able to join Niya's paper doll collection (oh yes, there are paper dolls now) and create their own paper doll that looks like them! I have a dream that one day Niya and her amazing friends (oh yes, she has friends now) will take their wonderful world of imagination to the small and eventually BIG screen! I have a dream that the innocence of children all over the world will be restored and celebrated. And my last dream is that all of my mom's dreams will finally come true!

I've lived once, I've lived twice, but this third the charm! Happy Anniversary NIYA!

*(Downloadable Niya paper dolls: and Follow us on twitter @NiyaKids and

Thank you Darla and Niya for sharing the journey of the Niya doll.

Readers:  One of their goals is to get 100,000 people to like their facebook page (  Please join me in "liking" Niya Kids on facebook to help ensure that the next generation of multicultural Niya Kids becomes a "lift-off" reality.   Thank you in advance!


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  1. That was so wonderful to read! I had never heard of the Niya doll. How is that possible? So inspiring that her mom was so dedicated to the cause. I'm so impressed.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed Niya's story, Vanessa. It is very inspiring.


  3. Im taken by this Niya doll. She looks like my Goddaughter whos name is also Niya I would love to bless my Goddaughter with this doll. How can that happen? Contact me at 989)332-6094


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