Written By: Shumara Thomas
The toy industry is a billion dollar market with growth that has continued today even with the closing and liquidation of the historic company Toys “R” Us. Yet it severely lacks in diversity, in spite of the shown successes of diverse toys with the high-profile marketing of Black Panther toys and figurines by Marvel and Funko POPs capitalization on diverse collectibles. As a black woman, I remember myself the struggles of having a black doll growing up; only really having “Christie,” Barbie's lone black pal to play with. Thankfully this generation has entrepreneurs like Jersey City's Niya Dorsey and her company, Brains and Beauty Dolls.
While on maternity leave, Niya was enjoying her quality time with her newborn when the idea began to formulate. “Growing up I didn't have dolls and things that looked like me...but for my daughter I wanted to give her a doll, more something that looked more like her.” After talking it over with her husband and other friends and mothers in her circle, Brains and Beauty was born.
Now with the current rise of black self love and diversity that is trending, it's not extremely difficult to find a doll of color. Even better, black-owned toy companies themselves are springing up to combat the toy section's lack of representation. Yet Brains and Beauty stands out amongst them all because these dolls TALK. For only $89 with names like Khari, Malia, and the special edition Emani, these natural hair dolls actually speak 20 different inspirational phrases to empower young girls. Imagine if you will the impact a toy like this could have on young children from broken or dysfunctional households. A groundbreaking toy helping to stimulate positive emotional development and self esteem in young girls. Niya recalled a story where she was out taking promotional photos for her dolls and happened upon a little girl and her father at the park. When she gave the little girl the doll “she squeezed the doll and the first phrase that she heard was ‘You're beautiful’ and when I tell you! It like really struck my heart. She smiled and was like ‘Daddy she said I'm beautiful, I'm really pretty!” These are those empowering moments that she and Brains and Beauty dolls hope to cultivate.
Right now the brand has accessories like T-shirts, books and even matching pajamas for girls and their dolls but Niya already has her eyes on the future. “I do want to incorporate other cultures,” she says. “Like Asian, Indian… because they deserve to have dolls and different things to represent them as well.” She also plans on having dolls and accessories geared toward boys and a customizable voice box for consumers to create their own unique phrases.
From the pictures of happy little girls with their Malia dolls on their Instagram and Facebook page, it's easy to see that Niya's vision has not been far off mark. “With the doll you're supposed to have fun but I also want you to understand, and learn, and build who you are as you're developing as a child.” You can support her vision by purchasing your own Brains and Beauty doll here on their website.