Play is important. It shapes a child’s imagination and their world view and dolls are an important part of that process. They’re also historical artifacts. Just as discarded newspapers and frayed yearbooks hold secrets to our society’s values, the dolls we create share a great deal about who and what we think is important.
Several trailblazing and record-setting Black women have had their contributions to our works immortalized in doll form. Because of these efforts, today’s children have the opportunity to play with video game programmers, marine biologists, athletes, and even ballerinas but there are still some gaps in the marketplace.
Costume designer Shiona Turini was so committed to increasing representation in the category she designed a line of diverse dolls sporting the style she brought to Insecure. Change agent Marley Dias helped raise important conversations through a partnership with a doll-maker during this year’s Black History Month, and now Cardi B is bringing a doll to market with Real Women Are, the first minority women-owned and led doll company to be endorsed by the National Entertainment Collectibles Association.
“As everyone knows, I’m a mom. And today, more than ever, it’s important to me to give my daughter inspiration and badass women to look up to,” she said in a statement to ESSENCE. “Working with Real Women Are is a chance for me to provide my daughter and other little girls something that looks like them to play with to inspire them. We’re in the White House now, but we’re still so far behind in other places. Representation matters.”
See 14 Black women who have inspired dolls below.
Shahidi and her character might be fully grown but the actress and activist’s inner child was thrilled about inspiring future voters with her doll.
The Italian soccer player became a doll shortly before being added to the football hall of fame.
Williams’ top tier tennis talents inspired this fun pop culture collectible.
The prodigy who became the first African-American to be appointed to principal dancer by the Americans Ballet Theater (in its 75-year history), can now twirl herself around.
The fencing champion became the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing. She then made a generation of Muslim girls feel seen as a doll.
The late poet and author’s doll is accessorized with a copy of her most popular body of work.
The poised jazz singer and civil rights advocate sparked imagination with her vintage glamour.
The gravity defying gymnast was made a doll in 2016.
The contributions of the civil rights hero were honored with a doll in her image.
Britain’s fastest woman flew off the shelves.
Cardi B’s ‘Real Women’ Doll
The rapper capitalized on her household-name status and crossover appeal to team up with Real Women, the first minority women-owned and led doll brand. She collected a new check while lending her celebrity to highlight and uplift a toy brand owned by women of color, for girls of all ethnicities.
After the formerly “Hidden Figure” was introduced to the mainstream, she brought the importance of math to playtime.
The tennis player and butterfly whisperer won a title in 2018 and became a doll in 2019.