Founder of Natural Girls United Karen Byrd is making gains for the black community with her customized ethnic dolls.
Her customized dolls feature a wide variety of natural hairstyles. They range from bantu knots, to twist outs, spiral curls, and locs all in different shades of brown, red, and blonde.
And if you don’t see a doll that you like or would like to customize one to look exactly like your little one, Byrd accepts custom request.
What’s most admirable and exciting about Byrd’s natural hair dolls project is that she saw a lack of representation and started an initiative to change that.
On her website, Byrd says making dolls that reflect the beauty of black women has long been a goal of hers.
“As a young girl, I remember loving to play with my dolls… mainly with my Barbie’s. I thought the dolls where beautiful, but always noticed that my African American dolls did not look like me. Their features did not look like mine, and their hair certainly did not look or feel like my hair! This did affect my view of what beauty was.”
At such a formative age, these dolls could make significant impacts for young girls.
The feelings we develop on our hair, ourselves, and what beauty is are developed early on and set the tone for your relationship with your self and body for the rest of your adult life.
Having the option of natural hair dolls is more than little girls having dolls that look like them to play make believe with. It’s about a redistribution of value to blackness and normalizing black beauty.
For black women, our hair is supposed to be our main concern and trouble.
It is said to reflect not only on ourselves, and whether or not we are a “well-groomed woman,” but it has a symbolic meaning as well: tamed hair equals a tamed black woman.
Seeing dolls with natural hair makes me feel excited for the future relationships between black women and our hair.
Accepting that our hair is just another facet of our identity is learning that we have the power over how it defines us.