Racially Diverse Dolls Showcase Natural Hair and Big Dreams

“World Girls” don’t just have nice clothes—they have beautiful strengths.

Carlissa and Laken King grew up like so many teenagers their age—reading through the best and the worst fashion magazines. And—also like many other teenagers their age—they didn’t like what they saw. So the twins, then in high school, came up with an idea: they would design their own racially diverse dolls, that not only included natural hair and varied skin tones, but real, actual, dreams.

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Queens Of Africa Dolls Outsell Barbie In Nigeria

The homegrown toys gave young African kids characters that look like them. Unsurprisingly, they became extremely popular.

Image via Queens of Africa.

When Taofick Okoya’s daughter told him that she wished she was white, the Nigerian entrepreneur decided to help her fall in love with her natural black beauty. Sensing that her fair-skin worship was due to all of her favorite storybook, cartoon, and toy characters being white, Okoya began to imagine a world where Nigerian girls played with and looked up to black characters.

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These Fantastical, Futuristic Black Dolls Will Make You Rethink the Toy Aisle

Since 1978, artists have created inspiring representations of black culture in doll form that are sorely lacking in the conventional toy industry

In the now infamous Doll Experiments, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark presented two dolls, one black and one white, to young black children and asked them questions about which they preferred. The test found that students who attended segregated schools overwhelmingly preferred the white doll and revealed how students internalized the racism that structured their everyday lives. The Clarks not only served as expert witnesses in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, their research findings also inspired what is now the longest-running black doll show in the United States. The Annual Black Doll Show, now in its 34th year, takes place at the William Grant Still Arts Center in the historically black Los Angeles neighborhood of West Adams. The show was founded in 1978, by the legendary L.A.-based artist and curator Cecil Fergerson, who served as the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts’ (LACMA) first black curator.

“Everybody calls him the godfather of the black community. The black artists know Cecil. He started as a janitor at [LACMA] and then he came on up to be a curator,” says Bobbie Campbell, one of the center’s founders.

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