Williams wanted to see dolls that reflected the actual beauty and diversity of black girls, so instead of just complaining about it, she created a line and now the dolls are available exclusively at Walmart and Walmart.com. The line features a range of girl dolls from wide-eyed babies to pouty toddlers; and pig-tailed and afroed little girls bursting with personality. Each doll features a positive message such as “I am smart” or “I am proud.”
Dr. Lisa, as she prefers to be called, has a PhD in business from Ohio State University, has been tenured faculty at prestigious universities, has a slew of “firsts” in her field as a woman and as an African American and yet somehow has found herself heading up a doll line.
“Our girls need to see that they are gifted with beauty, intelligence and attractiveness,” said Dr. Lisa in her interview with BlackEnterprise.com.
After seeing Anderson Cooper’s recreation of the famous black/white doll experiment from decades ago, Dr. Lisa was in tears. The experiment involved asking children to identify which doll or picture was smart, stupid, ugly, beautiful, etc., with the only difference between the dolls/pictures being skin color.
“Unfortunately, our little girls see white and light as more attractive, smarter. I was a professor at the time, so I prayed and meditated and asked for guidance,” recalled Dr. Lisa.
What ended up happening was that Dr. Lisa completed an inspirational book called Leading Beyond Excellence: Learn 7 Practical and Spiritual Steps to Spiral Yourself to the Top, in which she interviewed several international business leaders including Lee Scott who was the then-CEO of Walmart. Dr. Lisa’s professorship at the time was partially funded by the Walton family who founded and own Walmart. After the success of her book and having it on shelves in Walmart, as fate would have it, she was approached by a children’s book buyer to write an inspirational book for children. Upon the success of that book, she was approached by a toy manufacturer to help produce a line of realistic dolls for children of color.
“It’s all by divine guidance,” demurred Dr. Lisa. “There were things that happened beyond my control. You put in the effort and the work and then you are grateful for the outcome.”
Her work with the dolls has taken her all the way to China to deal directly with a manufacturer, and she remains hands on with the line.
“A lot of times when you see dolls of color they have a gray/ashy undertone that is not realistic. That’s not what our skin looks like,” said Dr. Lisa. The Positively Perfect dolls come in various skin tones and feature various hair textures as well.
Though no longer formally teaching, Dr. Lisa does conduct seminars and gives talks as part of her company, the World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (EPI). And though the focus is on girls right now, Dr. Lisa (mom to two teenage sons) plans to launch a doll line for boys as well.
“We want it to be unique. We want to show these boys that they are innately powerful. They don’t have to be aggressive or violent,” said Dr. Lisa. “When people see our dolls, I want that ‘Oooh’ factor. I love it when I hear someone gasp instead of saying words. They just go ‘Oooh.’ That’s what I want,” said Dr. Lisa. “These are not just toys, they are tools for building self-esteem.”
The Positively Perfect dolls ($9.97-$19.97) are available right now exclusively at Walmart stores and at Walmart.com.