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Representation is everything. Cognizant of the lack of dolls with melanated skin tones and natural hair, an entrepreneur launched a toy company to encourage young Black girls and other girls of color to have pride in their features, Rhode Island Inno reported.

Yelitsa Jean-Charles—a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design—founded Healthy Roots Dolls in 2015. The lack of diversity that she saw among dolls as a child encouraged her to start the company. The road to creating the line of dolls was far from easy. It forced her as an adult to revisit childhood experiences related to racism, including one in which she cried after receiving a Black Barbie for Christmas because society conditioned her to believe that Black didn’t equate to beauty.

“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of girls on TV that looked like me being represented positively or considered beautiful. I had a lot of experiences with colorism and internalized racism that shaped my perception of beauty and confidence,” she said, according to the news outlet. She added that she didn’t begin to fully embrace her Blackness and her features until she attended college where other Black women schooled her on how detrimental conforming to society’s standards can be.

Jean-Charles believes that it’s crucial for kids to see positive representations of themselves, which is why she wanted to create a line of dolls. She launched Healthy Roots Dolls during her junior year while participating in the Brown Social Innovation Fellowship and RISD’s E’Ship programs. Since launching, she has received several grants for her business. The first doll in the collection comes with a book that delves into natural hair care, and her company also sells #LoveMyRoots shirts for adults and children.

“In the process of creating it, I kept in mind the fact that my goal is to represent features that Black women are often taught to hate,” Jean-Charles stated. “I want to see our dolls helping girls see themselves in a positive way.”

SOURCE: Rhode Island Inno

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