Too ‘White? Stacey and Kelie Have the Answer

There is a lot of talk in our industry about ‘where the next generation of toy makers is coming from.’ I’d like to rephrase the question: In an America where more than half of the children born are children of color, where is the diversity in toys, reflective of our children, going to come from?

I thought about this as I walked Toy Fair last month. This is not a criticism, it is an observation: Toy Fair looks pretty ‘White.’

Imagine a Black Mama with three daughters aged 3, 5 and 8. She walks  into any of the big box stores hoping to get three different Black dolls for her daughters. A soft and cuddly Black lovie for her three year old, maybe a cute 12 or 13 inch Black baby doll for her five year old – hopefully with ‘natural’ hair that she can style and play with – and for the oldest, an 18 inch African-American girl doll with a nice selection of fashions.

Yeah… right.

If you don’t know these two names, you should: Stacey McBride-Irby and Kelie Charles. What Madame Alexander and Ruth Handler were to dolls in the 20th century, these two doll makers are to the 21st century. Visionairies. Pioneers. Entrepreneurs. These two women are helping to bring American Doll making into the 21st century.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena by Stacey McBride-Irby

When you meet and talk to Stacey and Kelie you learn that they share the same story and the same passion. They’ve identified an itch – the lack of dolls of color, and they are doing their best to scratch it. It isn’t easy starting a new company from nothing more than an idea, but fortunately we live in a time and an America where it is possible.

Zaria Double Dutch Doll

Zaria is one of the Double Dutch Dolls by Kelie Charles

In the course of things it doesn’t really matter so much that I am proud of these women, or that I am proud to carry their dolls. I am but a humble doll merchant. But in an America that is changing from white to ‘of color,’ I want to stand and cheer. This is where the ‘next generation’ of doll makers is coming from.

The difference between Barbie and Barbie®

If you ask a four year old African American girl to go get her Barbies, what do you think she’ll bring you?

A Christie doll – Barbie’s African American friend – or a Nikki, Christie’s sister?

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Perhaps any one of the myriad of dolls with The Barbie name and ‘African American’ attached to it? Like ‘Barbie loves the Girl Scouts African-American’ or ‘Barbie Careers – Nurse – African American?’

Or perhaps one of the 1000’s of Barbie clones, not made by Mattel at all?

Actually, I think that that four year old might bring out all of her dolls… including Bratz, Monster High, Doc McStuffins and Disney Princesses or the new Prettie Girls by Stacey McBride.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Why? Because I think that after over 50 years, Barbie has finally become the generic term for 11 inch dolls. Especially the all plastic – removable fashions dolls.

It’s like Kleenex® is what everybody calls facial tissues, Vaseline® for petroleum jelly and Velcro® for hook and latch fasteners. Especially in our children’s minds. Children don’t ‘get’ ®! And to be honest with you, I don’t think most adults differentiate much between what is really a Barbie® and what might be something else similar. I think we call them all Barbies too.

What do you think?

PS: To my readers who filter everything through a P.C. lens: This post is about the difference between Barbie®, and Barbie used as a generic term… not about race. Because Mattel has both African American Barbies® and Black dolls that are part of the Barbie line but are not named Barbie, it made my point easier to explain. Get over yourself.