At just 4 years old, Zara Kimotho had an identity crisis. As the only African American girl in her preschool, she intrinsically knew that her blackness made her different and she didn’t feel pretty. Feeling like the girls in her class with long, straight hair were superior, she asked her mother to transform her natural curls and kinks into bone straight tresses like that of her Asian best friend. Zara also criticized her black baby doll’s hair, which signaled to her mother that she had a problem that stemmed deeper than her hair.
“I couldn’t understand why at 4 years old, [Zara would] be that concerned about a specific component of her physicality. And why would that make her feel so much less than?” says Múkami Kinoti Kimotho, a 43-year-old Wall-Street-executive-turned-entrepreneur. She was “the only girl in her class who had curly, kinky hair. And so that was something that became an issue for her,” Kimotho says.
But that was just one factor that impacted Zara’s self-esteem. Kimotho says that living in a predominantly white neighborhood and internalizing social constructs that systematically glorify and normalize white beauty also hurt her daughter’s confidence.
Being a good mom, Kimotho reaffirmed for Zara that she was created to perfection and even explained the allure of black hair. She then spoke to other mothers about how their little girls were being affected by societal norms about beauty. Kimotho also took a survey and was flabbergasted when she found hundreds of mothers who shared her same concerns about their daughters. Some even revealed that their daughters have tried to starve or hurt themselves in order to meet unrealistic beauty standards.
“Realizing that this was a much bigger problem,” said Kimotho, I was determine “to figure out how to solve it.”
In August 2017 she launched Royelles, a collection of Afrocentric avatars to empower girls to be authentic, ambitious, and embrace their originality. Kimotho designed and hand-crafted 13 different prototypes in the collection. Each one comes with an interesting backstory.
“In a world with exclusive, unrealistic beauty ideals, our girls are barraged with messages that negatively influence their self-image, self-value, and aspirations. Royelles offers something disruptively different!” reads the website.
“Rather than tell girls who they are not, Royelles avatars give girls, ages 4 to 12, an immersive and holistic play experience centered around a collection of avatars that remind them that they are ENOUGH.”
Ultimately, she wants to the collection to inspire girls into using their originality as a source of strength. “Whatever that makes you feel different, that is actually your superpower. That is where the opportunity lies for you to truly have an impact and make a special and unique difference in the world,” said Kimotho.
Kimotho added that she is on a mission to empower 1 million girls, but she needs your help.
With your help, we have a chance to make a difference in the hearts and minds of all girls, everywhere. We’re on Kickstarter to raise funds for our first production run of Royelles avatars. $100K will allow us to produce the first avatar from our collection of 13! While we’re starting off by producing MARA—our warrior princess, as backers, you’ll have the opportunity to vote for the Royelles avatar we’ll produce next! The more we raise over $100K, the more we can produce, and the more choices you’ll have.