“Mommy, she looks just like me!” That is what makes Dr. Lisa Williams most proud of her “Positively Perfect” dolls.
Where at one time blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie dolls dominated toy store aisles, now those same aisles are gradually adding diversity with the inclusion of dolls that reflect deeper-skin tones and ethnic hair.
Dr. Williams has put a lot of effort into creating dolls that celebrate the diversity in multicultural children.
As the founder and creator of Positively Perfect Dolls — a unique line of baby dolls that represent and reflect the beautiful features found in young African-American girls, she has developed dolls in a variety of skin tones that include vanilla, caramel, pecan and mocha. The skin tones are even custom-blended to perfect the right shade, glow and undertone that ultimately resemble realistic results.
“It’s very meticulous chemistry [that] I do to actually come up with the right skin tone,” Williams told theGrio in a phone interview. “That is not done with the dolls in the general marketplace.”
Most dolls offered in stores fail to accurately reflect the changing demographic of America. Minority populations continue to expand and yet, the changing face of consumers is not being accurately reflected in the dolls manufacturing companies make.
“The features do not represent our features,” Williams said. “I start from scratch, I sketch them out. I know how those lips should look, I know how the brown of their eyes should be. I know about the fullness of the lips, the shape of the face, I know that because it’s in my heart and in my vision and that’s what differentiates our dolls from anyone else. So when people see them they see and feel that difference.”
Williams has a stellar record of making history.
She was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate at Ohio State University. As a professor at a number school institutions across the nation, including Kent State, she was the first African-American woman to earn tenure.
Williams left academia and stated public speaking and executive training; before she was asked by Walmart to launch a line of children’s books, due to the sales success of her first book in the store. With this offer, she had a direct goal in mind.
“I wanted to make sure that they [the books] were 1. inspiring and 2. representative,” Williams said, going on to share that her and her team published 15 books over the course of three years.
It was through this initiative that Williams was approached to create a line of dolls with the same image and likeness as the characters of her books.
“I’ll tell you at that point, I actually said no because I knew nothing about dolls and said this was really outside of my core area of expertise,” Williams admitted.
What changed her mind?
A segment on CNN that explored a study showing young black girls and their reactions to various white and brown-colored dolls.
“One little [black] girl broke my heart, she looked at the brown doll and said the doll was ugly. I cried, it broke my heart,” Williams said. “For her to say something like that shows you how deep those sentiments are in our culture.”
Williams then made it her mission to manufacture dolls that minority girls would soon come to admire and love.
Read more about Dr. Williams story in her interview with thegrio.