Forget Barbie: These dolls are teaching kids the beauty of diversity
For decades, most little girls hoping to get mainstream dolls that looked like them were forced to settle for Mattel’s version of Barbies of color, which have always looked like nothing more than darker-skinned versions of their white counterparts—right down to their curiously straight hair.
But in recent years, parents- and kids-of-color have been pushing for dolls that look like them and finally their calls are being answered. This week, Elle.com spoke with Maite Makgoba, the founder of Momppy Mpoppy, a line of Black dolls that sport the curly, sometimes kinky hair that Black children often grow up with.
Launched in South Africa last summer, Makgoba hopes her line of dolls will earn international recognition and provide little girls of color with a toy they can relate to. “I want little girls that look like Momppy to realize the beauty that is blackness from a young age,” Makgoba tells Elle. “And embrace their beauty as pure beauty.”
But she doesn’t want limit the dolls’ audience to just little girls of color. As she explains, it’s important for all little girls to embrace different kinds of beauty.
“I want little girls that do not look like Momppy to play with a Momppy Mpoppy because this will open their mind to the real world, which doesn’t have one human race or one standard type of beauty, and such things enhance tolerance,” she says.
At the moment, Momppy Mpoppy—a name inspired by the South African words for doll—is available internationally through Takealot.com, and Makgoba is getting plenty of positive responses to the dolls, the designs of which she says she’s still perfecting.
“We are a young company so we are growing and accumulating resources to develop a variety of molds that can represent the diversity you find in Africa,” she says, “It’s obviously a unique concept; unique toys that the world hasn’t really been exposed to, and the process of concept to product is yet another exciting journey for myself and my team.”
Momppy Mpoppy dolls join the ranks of another wildly successful doll company on a mission to provide kids with more diverse toys. Back in January, entrepreneur Taofick Okoya launched the heritage-honoring Queens of Africa dolls, which, according to Reuters, were selling faster than Barbies all across Nigeria.
Representation in children’s toys is no small thing. It has the power to imbue self-confidence in young girls and educate their community. At the same time, lack of representation can damage individual self-esteem and perpetuate narrow, exclusionary standards of beauty for years to come. With new dolls like these, we can see much needed change on the horizon. And it can’t come soon enough.