Kids are easily influenced at a young age from the world around them, the people they interact with, and even the toys they play with. For young girls especially, something as simple as a doll can change the way they perceive themselves. One company’s solution is to make a positive impact through the doll category.
Trent. T. Daniel founded the One World Doll Project in 2010 with Stacey McBride-Irby, who began working for the company in February 2011. The company was established to bring multicultural dolls, products, and toys into the marketplace through the creation of The Prettie Girls! dolls.
“The days of there being this one prototype for the female figure–the blonde hair, blue eyes, and thin waist–is not a realistic representation of what our kids are seeing every day in their schools and mainstream America,” Daniel said.
The goal of the company is to create a line of products that represents true diversity in the melting pot society that the world is today. According to Daniel, the perfect place to start was with the development of a line of dolls that addresses and understands a certain market.
“Diverse races and cultures are not equally represented on the toy shelf and in the toy chests of little kids across the country, so that’s what we’re focused on,” Daniel said. “Along with that is to create and foster a successful brand in The Prettie Girls! dolls to move it forward into the marketplace as another option, not necessarily an alternative, for the millions of women of color who are out there everyday in the stores and on the Internet looking for play figures that represent–or at least resemble–the little girls that are in their homes.”
McBride-Irby’s background in designing dolls includes creating for the most popular doll line in the world. She worked at Mattel for 13 years before becoming senior vice president of product development of the One World Doll Project team. At Mattel, McBride-Irby designed Disney princesses, Barbie dolls, and Barbie’s friends, like her sister Skipper and Ken. She also created the So In Style collection, the first line of authentic African-American Barbie dolls at Mattel.
According to McBride-Irby, she took a variety of factors in mind while designing The Prettie Girls line.
“We put together a scope of a doll that looks like a multicultural little girl with fuller lips, different nose, fuller figure, smaller breasts than Barbie, and with hips a little bit wider,” McBride-Irby said. “I wanted to create a doll that was more of an average size—a 8 rather than a 2.”
Five dolls make up The Prettie Girls! collection: Lena, who is African-American; Valencia, who is Latina; Kimani, who is African; Dahlia, who is South Asian; and Alexie, who is Caucasian. Each of the girls has her own back story and cartoon on the company’s YouTube channel, and all attend the Dream Academy of Excellence and are diverse in their styles and interests.
“It is important not just for girls to have dolls that look like them, but they also need to have a positive message,” McBride-Irby said.
This positive message is embodied in a concept called Prettie Girl power. “P” stands for positive; “R” is respectful; “E” is enthusiastic; “T” is talented; “T” is truthful; “I” is inspiring; and “E” is excellence. None of the characteristics are based on physical attributes, which according to Daniel, shows little girls that being pretty is embracing those seven words.
“We want girls to understand that beauty is based on the person looking back in that mirror,” Daniel said.
Two of the dolls, Lena and Valencia, are currently available for consumers. The other three will be available in the fall. In addition, the company has created the Signature Celebrity Collection of The Prettie Girls! line. The first doll in that collection represents Cynthia Bailey, who is featured on Bravo Network’s Real Housewives of Atlanta. This doll is also available to consumers.
Last month, The Prettie Girls! line made its debut at the big box retail store chain H-E-B. According to Daniel, when the dolls first came out, they attracted the attention of one of the vice presidents of the store chain, who had the toys on the shelves over Easter weekend.
There were four events that launched the line into retail. On Friday, April 18, and Saturday, April 19, Stacey signed dolls and interacted with customers to celebrate the launch. On Saturday, the events completely sold out of every single doll.
“Not only did we sell out, but there was a demand and a little bit of a scramble to get more dolls on the shelves,” Daniel said. “We were both pleasantly surprised at the fact that we sold out two stores, and it’s just an indicator that we proved the concept of the One World Doll Project. This is the beginning of something that we really believe has the potential to be on the level of what Bratz and Barbie dolls have been.”
According to Daniel, for many of the parents and little girls at the stores, The Prettie Girls! were exactly what they were looking to purchase.
“Interestingly enough, we saw a lot of black girls buying Hispanic dolls, and when asked the reason why, it was because her hair was so pretty,” Daniel said. “A lot of the Hispanic and white customers were buying the African-American dolls.”
The bottom line is that little girls just want to play.
“Even though the dolls are multicultural and racially diverse, we don’t let that become the centerpiece and the focus of what these dolls are,” Daniel said. “They’re toys, and we want these little girls to engage with them and have fun.”
A year from now, Daniel and McBride-Irby hope to have their products on the international market for all little girls to know about and to embrace the spirit of what they are for.
“What I see for us in a year and what I see for us in fifty years from now is that we will be a legacy and make an impact on little girls, no matter what color they are,” Daniel said. “We want little girls to know that somebody is thinking about them, no matter what color they are or what their background is. We want them to know we are embracing them, their unique individuality, and who they are.”