|Journalist and NewOne Now's Roland Martin is joined by Ellen Livingston, LCSW-C; Trent T. Daniel, founder of One World Doll Project; and Stacey McBride-Irby, designer of Prettie Girls Dolls|
Via Skype from Los Angeles, California, and Houston Texas, respectively, Stacey McBride-Irby and Trent T. Daniel of One World Doll Project were interviewed on Roland Martin’s NewsOne Now show earlier today. Present during the segment was Ellen Livingston, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who spoke on the importance of Black dolls in promoting the esteem of Black girls.
As an obsessed Black-doll enthusiast, not only did I watch and record the segment, I also took still shots and transcribed most of the questions and comments as the show aired. My transcript is not word-for-word, but comes as close as my flying fingers allowed.
|Prettie Girls Dolls on the set: Dahlia (Middle Eastern/Indian), Cynthia Bailey Doll (from the collector series), and Kimani (African)|
Roland Martin's initial questions and comment: Can a line of Black dolls boost the self-image of Black girls? Does it have an impact on how they see themselves later in life? We will explore that topic on what these dolls actually mean to the images of sisters.
Roland's brief commentary prior to introducing the guests: For a lot of African Americans, they actually did not have dolls that were made in their image in terms of their hair, in terms of how they looked, and when you talk to women as they got older, they talk about how the beauty or definition of beauty in America was determined by those images, not just what they saw in magazines and television commercials, but also the kinds of dolls they were able to play with.
Today we have a couple of African American entrepreneurs who have gone out to help Black girls embrace their own self images by creating a line of dolls they can relate to. We also want to expand this beyond that and talk about what this means in terms of the self-image, in terms of the self-esteem of Black girls and eventually Black women.
Martin to Stacey: Stacey, I want to start with you. It's no surprise that you are calling these the Prettie Girls, and I would say that I wouldn't be surprised that you chose that. Because when we talk about Black girls, when we talk about that image, you have folks who grow up who say, 'I never saw myself as pretty' because they didn't see themselves reflected when it came to the dolls they played with.
Stacey McBride-Irby: Definitely, and I can speak to that because I didn't see fashion dolls that looked like or represented me. I had baby dolls that looked like me, but not fashion dolls. Everyone in this world wants to be pretty wherever you come from; race, creed, background, old or young, you want to feel pretty. So I wanted to create a line of Prettie Girls dolls that represent being pretty not just inside but out.
|Dr. Mamie Clark and husband Dr. Kenneth Clark developed and conducted the Doll Test during the 1940s and 1950s to study the psychological effects of segregation on Black children.|
Martin mentioned the results of Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark's1947 Doll Test where then and even today the children tested (boys and girls) preferred the White doll over the Black doll.
Stacey commented: That test always saddens me. That is why I did want to create dolls because a doll is our first image that we really see and we are able to nurture and play with. So I wanted to create images for little girls that really change the institution and make them feel good about themselves.
Martin asked Trent: What is the origin of that particular name? [One World Doll Project]
Trent: When Stacey and I first met and decided that we wanted to do this, we first of all wanted to send a message that it’s not just about Black people or Hispanic people or one group, and I think that's kind of the messaging in our culture that gets lost. If somebody creates a Black doll, all of a sudden they are a Black doll company, and we're not a Black doll company. We are actually a company focused on multicultural diversity. We want our dolls to reflect the melting pot that the United States of America is. And so that's when we thought about the name of this. We wanted to make sure we had a name that sent a crystal clear message that it’s about all of us and not just about one particular group.
(Martin reflects on his mother's difficulty finding Black dolls for his sisters, having to buy White dolls in the absence of Black dolls, yet wanting dolls that reflected their image. He admits things in the doll market are better now than they were then. Martin then asks Stacey why she left Mattel.)
Stacey: A little bit of my Mattel history: I used to play with fashion dolls as a little girl. I played with White Barbies because that was my fantasy world and I didn't have a doll that represented me. Fast forward to 2008. I am a Mattel designer, designing Barbies, and my daughter wasn't playing with dolls. I realized the time had changed and she didn't see an image of herself in a fashion doll. So that's when my passion and designer [instincts inspired me] to create an African American line of dolls through Mattel [So in Style Barbie]. They embraced it. My community embraced it, but I realized that my passion was bigger than Mattel’s marketing plan. They did not really promote the dolls like I expected them to. My passion outweighed that. That's when I decided, I'm bigger than this. This is a bigger movement. I need to go out on my own, and that's when I partnered with Trent T. Daniel and we created the Prettie Girls line of dolls.
|Images used in CNN's 2010 Doll Test where results illustrates self-esteem in Black children has not improved much since the Clark's Doll Test of the 1940s.|
Martin to Ellen Livingston, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, regarding CNN's Doll Test: This really speaks loudly to the self-hatred that Black women and even Black men grow up with in terms of how we look at color, how we look at hair, how we look at all those different things. We saw it in Bill Duke and Channsin Berry's Dark Girls. [It's the] same thing, how you have these beautiful brothers and sisters, these beautiful children who grow up thinking they are ugly because beauty has been defined as not looking like this but only looking like someone who's White.
|Ellen Livingston, Licensed Clinical Social Worker|
Ellen Livingston: This speaks from generations before. When I was growing up, the only Black doll we had was the Julia doll... [from the 1960s TV Show starring Diahann Carroll.] All of our dolls were White... As we've come along, and this company that we have here, is wonderful to provide an array of what Blackness and what beauty looks like in all colors. Because I understand it is not just African American dolls, there are brown dolls of all different types. It does affect our children and it does affect them negatively.
Martin to Livingston: Do you see it in your work in terms of women who come in and here they are adults, some of them in their 40s and 50s and 60s and they still are bothered by that notion of what is beautiful?
Livingston: Absolutely. In my practice I have seen women who have gone to great lengths to either participate in plastic surgery or changing their hair by adding hair extensions and different things to look more like what we consider beauty in America, which is very different from our broader nose, our broader hips, and our kinkier hair and curly hair and what have you, who have gone through great lengths and they don't like themselves, even after they have gone through all of that, because that's not their authentic personality. That's not who they are really.
|Prettie Girls Dahlia (now sold out according to my search for her today)|
Martin to Stacey: When I look at these dolls, I see some with straight and braided hair but also I see a huge Afro... So clearly you were thinking about all of that in terms of offering different looks. Because we have a lot of women who really emphasize natural hair versus getting a perm.
|Prettie Girls Cynthia Bailey (from the collector line) and Kimani (also sold out, according to day's search)|
Stacey: Definitely. I did want to put an Afro in our collector line of dolls. This is actually the Cynthia Bailey Doll, our first collector doll. I also wanted to add curly hair, straight hair. I wanted to give little girls something they can play with and also see themselves and women in their community.
Martin to Trent: ..,The reality is, this also impacts us [as men]. It impacts it when it comes to our relationships, when it comes to our our daughters as well as our nieces and their interaction with men and boys.
Trent: That's a key point that you brought up, Roland. It is always about the messaging. When you walk into our local retail stores, when you see an entire aisle of one race of dolls and this little small sliver of another race, it does send a message. And that's a message we intend on changing. But I think a bigger dynamic, Roland, is we also have to understand it's not just a situation where the retail stores don't want to carry Black dolls, and White-owned stores don't have an interest in little Black girls. There is also a supply problem. That supply problem comes from the fact that there have been many attempts for businesses to create African American dolls, but when you talk about the financial dynamics of being able to bring a product to the marketplace that a major retail store can put a hundred thousand units in, that becomes a whole other different topic that goes into the Black business community's responsibility to create the supply for the demand because the demand is certainly out there, and in our conversation with many major big box retail stores, they want the product, but it is a matter of their having a problem sometimes finding the product. That's really what the core of our mission is: to provide the supply for the demand.
Martin to Ellen: Do you believe that this line of dolls and others can have a dramatic impact on changing the view of the next generation to understand the different views of beauty and also greatly improve the self-esteem of the next generation.
|American Girl dolls Addy and Kaya and Doc McStuffins were also on the set.|
Ellen: I believe it can... I see the array of the dolls that they have, the different hues, skin tones, and the different hairstyles. [Martin referred to the dark skinned dolls that Livingston brought: American Girl Addy and Kaya and a Doc McStuffins doll and pointed out that dolls' shapes and sizes matter. Ellen agreed. She pointed out that Black dolls representing professionals are important, like Doc McStuffins.] I think that it is important for the self-esteem not only of our daughters but also of our sons. Our sons do get impacted by how the women in their world feel about themselves and how they allow the men to treat them. I think it is very important for our daughters to see these types of images.
Trent shared where the Prettie Girls dolls can be found online:
Stacey's final comment: Prettie Girls are beautiful. You are a "prettie" girl. We want you to embrace your "prettie" on the inside and out.
The show ended after Roland patted the Cynthia Bailey Doll's Afro into shape and next asked viewers the question of the day:
Do you buy black toys and products to help boost your child's self-esteem?
Each caller answered, Yes!