FO: Dolls and Diversity

While I was in Chicago I got the chance to finally meet up with an online friend in person. I’ve known my girlfriend Pem since back in my old blogging days. She worked for a brand I loved and we just clicked so we’ve always emailed and kept in touch via social media. She has two children and one day I saw a picture of her daughter holding a doll that looked nothing like her and I said to myself that I needed to make Leia a doll that mirrored what she saw in herself.
Little Leia
I made what is now affectionately known as Little Leia. This is the same doll pattern from the Susan B. Anderson Mary, Millie and Morgan doll I made previously for Maddie. I ordered the Knit Picks Brava Sport in the color almond to get a skin color close to Leia’s and when I did her hair I decided to cut it in a choppy little bob to mimick her own haircut.
Little Leia
For the record, growing up all the dolls in our home were black. These are my sister’s Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls (my sister’s name is Anne so clearly she had to have an Ann doll).
I didn’t even know Raggedy Ann and Andy were white until I saw a cartoon version of them and I thought, well that’s odd because our Ann and Andy are brown at home. That’s also how I felt about non-black Santa Clauses LOL. My mother believed that the dolls you play with should look like you and they should. I’ve taken that to heart and love making dolls when I can for friends. Seeing yourself in everyday things makes you feel more like you belong, like you’re the norm. And sadly in 2017 we still don’t have as much diversity in our products and mainstream culture as we should.
So here’s Leia with the death grip on her doll. She was so excited. And here’s the great thing about when I gave her the doll, she looked at it and said, ‘that’s me!’ with such excitement and joy it made my heart want to explode. She pointed everything out to me and said, ‘that’s my hair, those are my eyes, that’s my button nose…’ She knew that doll was meant for her and Pem told me that when we left and they went to a museum later she told everyone that was her little Leia and fell asleep clutching her doll.

I can’t make a doll for everyone but I’m happy that I can make some of the little girls in my life dolls that show them how beautiful and special they really are in this world. Diversity matters. Representation in the world matters. And sometimes all it takes is seeing the joy in giving a little girl a doll to realize it.

20 Replies to “FO: Dolls and Diversity”

  1. Such a beautiful little girl with her doll. And such a beautiful you for helping the world see more diversity

  2. I don’t get teary over much, but this story did it for me! Most of the “pretty” dolls of my childhood were blonde with curly hair, so I’ll never forget the Christmas when I got a dark-straight-haired doll under the tree. I know this is not the same as a different skin color, but it felt big to me at the time. Now, here’s my question: I have a young relative who is very white and very blond. He will never have the experience you are talking about. So… I am thinking about making him a couple of dolls that will diversify his play world. What do you think? How does this idea work with your thoughts about dolls looking like the child they’re meant for? Seriously interested in your thoughts.

      1. Looks like a great pattern… Though made up in a seriously anemic skin color! 😁 You’ve filled in my birthday list in a lovely way. Thanks so much. Here’s to changing the world, one doll at a time!

    1. My blonde-haired, light-skinned granddaughter is going to get some dark-skin dollies from me. 🙂 DWJ, you are such an inspiration. My heart-felt thanks!

  3. This may be the first blog post that has ever brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful gift, Dana. ❤️

  4. What a wonderful gift and story. I too have seen that reaction although I didn’t make the doll (gotta work on that). To me, the best part is what your mom believed and instilled in you. Blessings to you both!

  5. This is such an awesome post. It’s clear that Leia is head over heels in love with the doll you made for her! How beautiful that you were able to make a toy for her that reflected and represented her identity through your craft. It’s amazing to look back and think of how few of the toys my friends and I had, as kids, reflected our diversity. Representation matters so very much. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story and reflection. ❤

  6. Thank you so much for this heart lifting post considering what’s being championed by one person ( I can’t even say his name anymore) in Washington after the Charlottesville tragedy. You rock!

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