Did you ever visit a toy store as a kid, and notice that none of the dolls looked like you? If you’re a person of color in the United States, the answer is most likely a resounding yes. We care a lot about social change on College Hill, but it takes a special vision to change the market from the manufacturing side. That is exactly what Yelitsa Jean-Charles (RISD Illustrating ’16) is doing with her Healthy Roots Kickstarter.
From her own lived experience, Yelitsa knew just how much damage could be done to a young girl’s self esteem by society’s imposing beauty standards. Light skin, long blonde hair, blue eyes – the list goes on. In her own words, “Healthy Roots teaches girls of color self-love through education, diversity, and positive representation.” Right now, there are four girls: Marinda, who is Afro-Brazilian and loves soccer, Zoe, an African American with a zeal for learning and debate, Gaiana, who is Haitian and has a passion for music, and Dara, a Nigerian with a knack for coding websites. Together, they represent different corners of the African Diaspora, as well as a full-bodied image of ‘girliness’ that is so much more than fashion and appearance.
In differentiating her venture from anything else out there, Yelitsa told the Daily Dot:
“Black dolls already exist, but many of them only scratch the surface level of representation. You have to do more than paint a doll brown. We recognize that we need to have diversity and education in order to deconstruct colorism and racism. We do that by creating multiple dolls and storybooks that teach girls about themselves in a way that they can identify with.”