A Doll That Looks Like You: Project Aims to Boost Girls’ Self-Confidence

Megan Williams, News Leader (Staunton, Virginia), December 3, 2010

When Tierra Smith was a little girl, she only wanted white baby dolls and Barbies.

She didn’t want one that looked like her.

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Now as a junior at Mary Baldwin College, she participates in the Black Baby Doll Project, sponsored by the Ida B. Wells Living Learning Community, which puts black dolls in the hands of young girls.

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The project, which is in its 13th year, has collected more than 300 dolls, including Barbies, Kenya dolls and professional dolls. {snip}

Tattoos, piercings, a ton of makeup drawn on and skimpy clothes are some of the automatic disqualifiers for the dolls. They are supposed to model normal black girls and women, Cornett-Scott [The Rev. Andrea Cornett-Scott] said. Another big requirement, and a harder one to meet, is finding dolls that have authentic black features.

She held up three examples. The first, a doll with dark brown skin and a short bob, the next with braided hair and glasses, and the last with curls and full lips.

“We don’t want dolls that look like white dolls that have been painted black,” Scott said.

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“We want them [every young black girl] to think ‘this doll is beautiful, and it looks like me,'” she said.

{snip} Finding dolls that meet the project’s qualifications is difficult.

Scott said the girls in the program, who purchase dolls from donations they receive, have cleaned out Walmart, Kmart, Pufferbellies and many of the dollar stores in Staunton and Harrisonburg.

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Shaw [Sophomore Brittany Shaw] remembers running into a grandmother at a store last year, who was looking for a black doll for her bi-racial granddaughter. She told Shaw she wanted her to know about both cultures.

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