It’s a scene that plays out more often than I’d like it to for my family: There we are in the doll aisle at our local store. I stand side-by-side with my children; three girls and a boy. Our eyes scan rows upon rows of dolls with peachy-skin, blue eyes, and straight blonde or brown hair, smiling back at us from inside boxes that grace their names: Madison, Courtney, Jennifer, Paige …
And then finally, at the end of the line, there’s Jasmine — the single “ethnic” doll in the store. She has tanned-colored skin, purpley eyes, and straight brown hair. She is meant to be the “diverse” character; the one who represents all other non-white girls, and therefore, she is racially ambiguous.
And she looks nothing like my black daughters.
The lack of toy options for children of color is nothing new. I’ve been a mom for eight years, and finding dolls and action figures that reflect my daughters’ true appearance — including their dark brown eyes, curly black hair, and varying brown skin tones — can be difficult, if not impossible.
But thanks to two parents who had a simple yet powerful idea — and the courage to take a leap of faith — the standard of beauty in children’s dolls might be about to change.
Last week, Angelica and Jason Sweeting presented their doll line on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank, where they immediately captured the attention of co-host and investor Daymond John. During their emotional plea, the couple told the panel just why Naturally Perfect Dolls are a necessary addition to the toy market, and explained that it was their young daughter Sophia — who has openly expressed her unhappiness with her own appearance — that inspired the idea.
According to the company’s website, Sophia confided in her parents a strong desire for “long straight hair,” and even “started expressing a strong dislike for her facial features and skin tone.”
Soon after, they created the Angelica Doll — an 18-inch doll with natural hair, a darker skin tone, and beautiful black features much like Sophia’s. But they didn’t just end there: The Sweetings continued on to make three more dolls with varying brown skin tones, brown eyes, and natural, washable, and styleable hair: Kennedy, Camryn, and Brielle, which all currently retail for $84.99.
The aim of Naturally Perfect Dolls is to show children of color that there isn’t just one single image of beauty in this world; we are all beautiful, in our own unique ways. As the couple shared on their website:
“We are creating Naturally Perfect Dolls to let girls know that they are beautiful. Our girls need to see a reflection of their own unique beauty. It’s time for our young girls to have a new standard.”
Which is exactly why the Sweetings wanted to take their company to the next level, in an effort to mass produce the dolls and add to their product line. And now, thanks to their Shark Tank appearance, they can: On last week’s show, John offered the couple a compelling $200,000 — and they accepted.
Angelica admits her creative process in the beginning involved a lot of inward-reflection:
“As I began to develop the Angelica Doll and give serious thought to the things I wanted to do for young girls, I realized that I had been influenced by society’s standard of beauty for as long as I could remember. Here I am – 27 years old, and I am honestly just beginning to walk into who I am, my natural beauty. I want this to happen earlier, not only for my daughters but for your daughter, your niece, your sister, and for all young girls around the world. I want this to happen for all the young girls who never felt pretty enough because of their kinks, curls, wider noses or fuller lips.”
I couldn’t agree more.More On