(Photo Courtesy: World of EPI)
One year, my father stood in line for hours, braving the bitter cold, to buy my first Black Cabbage Patch doll. His name was Dickie Peyton. My dad selected the little brown boy from the store shelves, since they shared the same name—well nickname in my father’s case. Previously, my parents bought me what they “called” a Cabbage Patch. A woman they knew made knockoffs. Although I happily played with the doll I named Vena, I longed for the real deal. Then one Christmas morning, I looked under the tree and met my new best friend. After that day, I took Dickie everywhere! I even threw him a birthday party with a real cake. I’ll never forget the love my dad had for his daughter and the love I had for that doll. I’ve read that some parents dyed dolls to look like the children who loved them. And others made their own creations on their sewing machines. As the years passed, more and more dolls of color found their way onto the market. If you can’t find a pretty brown doll in person, you can tracked one down online. Diary of a First Time Mom tracked down doll maker Dr. Lisa Williams to thank her for creating Positively Perfect toys.
Heather: Dr. Lisa, first off, why did you decide to create the Positively Perfect doll line?
Dr. Lisa: As a former college professor, I saw that low self-esteem was at the core of most problems facing young girls. This lack of self-appreciation for their unique beauty and innate intelligence stemmed from childhood. Lack of authentic dolls and limited images of beauty partially contributed to this. So, I wanted to create dolls that reflected the beauty and intelligence of all children. That’s why Positively Perfect dolls come in a variety of skin tones and hair textures. In January 2014, Positively Perfect will launch a Latina line. I want every little girl to see her beauty when she plays with a Positively Perfect Doll. Our new Positively Perfect Jingle chorus states, “We are smart and pretty, too. We are Positively Perfect in all we do”.
Heather: You didn’t set out to be a doll maker. You obtained a doctorate and became a professor. Talk about your career path. Why did you decide to go in another direction?
Dr. Lisa: That’s a very good question. It proves there is a higher Intelligence guiding our journey. Yes, I was a very successful professor at Big Ten and major universities. In fact, I was the first African-American to graduate from the Marketing and Logistics Department at Ohio State University and the first female to be awarded a multi-million dollar endowed chair. However, after having my child, I felt I wanted to do more and give more to children. I wanted to be of greater service. Through several twists and turns, I became a doll designer. It’s now my passion and life’s mission.
Heather: I want my daughter to play with a diverse group of dolls and more importantly a diverse group of children. However, I make it a point to purchase toys that look like her. Why is it important for little girls to interact with dolls that have the same skin tone, hair texture, etc.? Do little girls develop a perception about race early on?
Dr. Lisa: Yes, first let me commend you on wanting your little angel to see her how cute she is by playing with dolls that look like her. This is important because I believe that images of beauty are formed early. From the beginning, parents show their little angels they are loved by speaking kind words, singing sweet songs, reading loving books and giving them positive dolls. The Positively Perfect doll collection is another tool in parent’s tool kit for raising children full of self-love and self-appreciation.
Heather: Decades after the Clark doll test, a large amount of children surveyed in spin-off experiments are still selecting white dolls as the nicer, prettier doll when compared to a brown version. Why do you think this is so?
Dr. Lisa: I’m not completely sure why this is happening. But, I certainly want to contribute to changing it. I want girls to look at Positively Perfect Dolls see its beauty and recognize the doll looks just like them. I think everyone naturally gravitates toward things that are similar. When girls are drawn to the Positively Perfect Doll, it is because something in them knows they are beautiful and special. Through continued play, girls begin to overtly become aware they are truly gorgeous.
Heather: I read a quote by doll maker Deborah Wright that said, “I think women know that they’re beautiful. But when you see a doll, it’s such a wonderful reminder of that beauty—because somebody took the time to make a doll in your likeness.” Do you agree?
Dr. Lisa: Oh yes, I agree! For years we’ve not had dolls that truly reflect unique beauty. When women and girls look at Positively Perfect Dolls, I want them to say, “Awe how pretty!” That makes me smile. But what really warms my heart is when a little girl walks up to these dolls, holds them and says, “Oh she looks just like me!”