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.