Friday, October 28, 2011

More on Here Comes Niya and Niya Kids

The original 24-inch Here Comes Niya from my personal collection

I have a personal story to tell regarding the Here Comes Niya doll and Niya and Friends. As I have written numerous times, I began collecting dolls in 1991 by pure accident after I ordered a so-called “collectible doll” for my daughter, who was 12, soon to be 13. The doll was to be a gift for Daughter’s upcoming birthday. After the black porcelain doll arrived, I kept it for myself as I had never owned a black doll in my then mid-30-something-year-old life. The mad dash to acquire other black dolls for myself ensued.

In 1991, I had also been a continuous, faithful subscriber to Essence magazine since the 1970s. A 1991 or perhaps 1992 issue of my then favorite women’s magazine contained a colorful cover image of the then hottest female group, En Vogue. This issue also contained an advertisement for the Here Comes Niya doll. A trilingual doll made in the likeness of a real little girl that speaks in the voice of the little girl in English, Spanish and Swahili was a novel idea, I thought. I had to have it… not for Daughter, but for myself!

I dialed the phone number included in the Essence ad and spoke with Niya’s grandmother and the real Niya herself, who I believe was about 7 years old at the time. I asked Niya if she would hand-sign my doll’s tummy. I imagine she did not understand this unusual request, but she honored it.  (A funny thing has happened throughout the years.  This morning I was prepared to photograph my doll's cloth tummy to illustrate young Niya's signature, but it is no longer there!  There is a small trace of what might be faded ink, but not large enough to have been the entire signature.*)

Back to my story.  In the Summer 2002 issue of Black Doll-Ezine, my Niya is featured along with other dolls manufactured by black owned and operated businesses.   Here Comes Niya appeared at least one additional time in Black Doll-E-Zine in the Dolls in the Spotlight column to inform readers of the widely distributed second version of the doll.

In late-2004/early-2005, I purchased the second version of Here Comes Niya from K-Mart (two, in fact) and kept these in their original boxes until both were eventually sold on the secondary market to fellow collectors. The dolls only have subtle differences.  The first doll's eyes are black; the second doll's are brown.  The second doll's vinyl coloring has more red undertones.  This version also came with the book, Here Comes Niya.  Both came with a hair brush, because as everyone knows, little girls love to comb their dolls hair. 

In 2006, I was excited to learn about the next generation of Niya when the doll’s creator, Darla Davenport-Powell, became a finalist on ABC’s American Inventor. As I was in the process of writing my second doll reference book, I contacted Davenport-Powell and asked permission to feature the prototypes of Niya and Friends in Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion.

In Chapter 4 (Modern Manufactured and Collectible Dolls from the 1960s-Present) on pages 170-171, I wrote:

Illustration 342 - HCN Enterprises, Inc. – Niya and Friends (Prototypes)

The Niya and Friends line is an extension of the original, 1990, Here Comes Niya doll by HCN Enterprises (see BD book 2, page 188). The creator of the doll, Ms. Darla Davenport-Powell was a contestant on ABC’s “American Inventor” show, which premiered in March 2006. Her doll invention ranks as one of the show’s top-12 finalists. The revised line, still in production at the time of this writing, now includes 10 new global dolls – Niya and Friends from Africa. According to Ms. Davenport-Powell, “the back story is that Niya is on a world (singing) tour... first stop is the continent of Africa where she meets Ife from Nigeria, Yoliswa from South Africa and Amira from Egypt. They all are 11-inch [27.94cm] collectibles and quite adorable.” Ms. Davenport-Powell explains, “I envision traveling to countries all over the world... sharing stories and delivering dolls to children of whom I look forward to hearing say: ‘She looks like me!’”

Value: N/A

Photograph courtesy of Darla Davenport-Powell
Niya Kids will be a multicultural line of dolls to include a now 11-inch Niya and dolls representing other ethnicities.  Still a vision for Davenport-Powell, but with her perseverance and help from within and outside the doll community, I remain hopeful that the dolls will soon become a reality. I look forward to the day when “the kids” can join my original Here Comes Niya, a baby doll that will forever remain part of my collection.

Don’t forget to download the free Niya Kids paper doll on facebook, “like” the facebook page, and share information about the dolls and the creator’s endeavor to bring them to market with your facebook friends. Encourage your friends to “like” the Niya Kids' facebook page, too. 

Your support is greatly appreciated. 

*My doll's vanished signature had me scratching my head for a while before I published this post.  I still cannot explain why it is no longer there.  My best guess is that during a doll room ceiling leak in an area of the room where Niya was formerly displayed, some of my dolls got wet,  but not enough to damage any of them, thank God!  Perhaps young Niya used a washable marker to sign my doll.  This could explain the mysterious disappearance of the signature that I know was once there.


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  1. I don't know the science behind it, but apparently vinyl dolls can 'absorb' the ink or something because my mother had an old doll that my sister scribbled on in ink. It was there for several years, then we pulled it out one day and all the ink had disappeared (and it would not have ever been wet). Old plastic/vinyl does so many weird things (like sticky legs or oily face on barbie), I figure disappearing ink is just one of those oddities.

  2. Hi Miss Lola 77 - thanks for attempting to help me solve the mystery of the vanishing signature. The area where Niya signed her name was on the doll's cloth body.


  3. I would love to see these dolls become a reality. They got my vote. By the way, did Daughter get another doll for her 13th birthday?

  4. Thanks for voting Vanessa.

    Another doll? If she asked for one, she did. The porcelain doll was a token purchase from a neighbor who was selling crystal products. I didn't want any crystal. The doll was the next best thing that I could order to support her.



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